It’s “B AA CK”—GOP Senator Bill Cassidy Wants Another Crack at Repealing Obamacare September 14, 2017
The GOP can’t end its obsession of trying to repeal health care insurance. Since its passage in 3/2010, the GOP has attempted, according to Newsweek, to repeal, modify, or otherwise curb the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare at least 70 times (Riotta, 7/29/17). Since Trump’s inauguration, both he and his GOP House and Senate have tried, by my count, to repeal this major legislation protecting millions of Americans at least 5 times. On 7/28/2017, in the early morning hours, the GOP Senate failed to pass a “skinny repeal” Obamacare bill. Ailing Senator John McCain (R-AZ), along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined all 48 Democrats in defeating this awful legislation (CNN). Most politicians and analysts considered this monumental failure the end of any GOP attempt at repealing Obamacare. They were wrong. The repeal Obamacare GOP zombie is “B AA CK” from its fetid political swamps, going for Try #6 in the era of Demagogue Donald. Donald, unlike Obama, will sign any health care repeal bill the GOP sends to him.
The key “brain” behind Repeal Obamacare Try #6 is LA Republican Senator Bill Cassidy. Along with S. Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, Cassidy is now hawking the latest GOP repeal health care insurance monstrosity, the Cassidy-Graham bill. If you think the previous GOP Obamacare repeal attempts were horrible, Cassidy-Graham constitutes horrible plus. It is the most radical repeal health care plan yet. Under Cassidy-Graham, about $1-1.2 trillion of federal dollars in Medicaid expansion funding under Obamacare would be directed into massive block grants to be sent to the states (Kliff, Vox, 8/01/17, cnbc.com, 9/11/17, Mangan, D., businessinsider.com, 9/11/17, Bryan, B.) The state legislatures, many dominated by “Red” lawmakers, will be given wide latitude to shape health care insurance coverage for poor and low-income residents within their borders, not a high priority for them (See theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news, Stole, 9/09/17).
Despite Sen. Cassidy’s touting state “flexibility,” his “flexibility” talk is wildly misleading. The Cassidy-Graham bill would make it virtually impossible for dozens of states to continue operating Obamacare without kicking in unrealistic amounts of their own money. In the short term, the law is designed to penalize states that embraced the ACA (the Affordable Care Act), while rewarding those that resisted it. In the early years, Cassidy-Graham would raid CA and NY’s health care budgets in order to temporarily lavish some extra money on small and sparsely populated states, such as Alabama, Mississippi, and North Dakota. The Cassidy-Graham block grants would grow slower than the cost of health care or insurance, eroding their value. According to the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this block grant system would lead to a 34% spending cut by 2026. Nine states, CA, CT, DE, FL, MA, NJ, NY, NC, and VA would have their federal health care funding cut in half under Cassidy’s block grant system, compared to what they would have received from Obamacare’s medical expansion and subsidy spending. Cassidy-Graham would impose a per-capita cap on traditional Medicaid spending. In 2026, the block grant program would simply disappear, leaving states to fund whatever insurance scheme they’ve set up without federal assistance. Previous GOP House and Senate bills that attempted to repeal Obamacare left in place permanent subsidies and tax credits Americans could use to buy insurance, even though they were inadequate. Under Cassidy-Graham, such marketplace subsidies disappear (Weissman, Slate, 9/09/17).
Cassidy’s plan, which he formally unveiled at a 9/13/2017 press conference (Politico, Haberkorn, 9/13/17), has yet to be scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). However, analysts who have studied his proposed legislation estimate that it would cut deeply into federal funding for health care. Cassidy’s plan would likely result in 15 million Americans losing their coverage next year and more than 30 million losing it a decade from now (NY Times, Leonhardt, D., 9/13/17). Under Cassidy’s plan, there is no requirement to focus funds on low-income populations, which Obamacare required (Vox, Kliff). Cassidy’s own Governor, LA’s Democrat John Bel Edwards, is not one of those backing this bill (theadvocate.com/baton_rouge, Stole, 9/09/17). Cassidy’s bill constitutes a recipe for destroying Obamacare. Who is Senator Cassidy?
First-term GOP Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy (59) has always emphasized health care issues. Highland Park, IL native Cassidy, the son of a life insurance salesman, grew up in Baton Rouge, LA. He became interested in medicine in his high school senior year, after several doctors eventually diagnosed swollen lymph nodes he had as non-cancerous. He received his Bachelor’s and M.D. degrees in 1979 and 1983 from LA State University (LSU). He met his wife, also an M.D., while doing his medical training (Barone & CQ 14 Political Almanacs). A liver specialist, Cassidy taught medicine at LSU and helped found the Greater Baton Rouge Community Clinic that provides free medical and dental care to uninsured workers. After 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Cassidy directed a group of health care volunteers in converting an abandoned K-Mart building into an emergency medical center for evacuees. As chair of the E. Baton Rouge Parish Medical Society’s health care overhaul committee until 1998, Cassidy raised concerns about the future of Medicaid (Barone & CQ 14).
Cassidy first won a special election to fill a LA State Senate Seat in 2006 as a Republican. Cassidy had previously contributed financially to the 1988 campaign of Dem. presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and to the 2002 U.S. Senatorial one of Democrat Mary Landrieu (“The Hill,” Joseph, 9/19/13, Gibson, 11/03/13, politico.com). Cassidy said he became a Republican because he was “frustrated with the bureaucracy, the inefficiency of the public hospital system, and the extinction of conservative Democrats (Gibson, web.archive.org, 5/31/14, “The Hill,” Joseph, 9/19/13).” In 11/ 2008, Cassidy ran against Dem. Congressman Don Cazayoux. Cassidy described himself as a “pro-life, pro-gun-rights” social conservative who had voted for tax cuts and against spending bills in the state legislature. He defeated Cazayoux 48%-40%. In 2010 and 2012, Cassidy coasted to re-election with 66% and 79% of the vote (Barone 14). In the House, Rep. Cassidy was a reliable GOP conservative vote. He was part of the GOP whip team that helped corral “Red” votes. He took a leading role in criticizing the Obama administration’s health care legislation. Cassidy supported GOP health savings accounts and called Obamacare “dependence on the government.” He voted with his party 94% of the time (CQ 14). He was a member of the extremist anti-government House Tea Party Caucus and the dominant right-wing Republican Study Committee (CQ 14). He voted for Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to kill Medicare as we know it. In 2012, Cassidy introduced legislation to reduce the share that states pay for Medicaid (Barone 14). He landed a plum seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee where he advocated for oil and gas interests (Barone 14).
Because of his reelection margins and legislative work, Cassidy was deemed a top challenger to defeat Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu who was running for a 4th term in 2014. In 2014, Cassidy took on Landrieu. He called his previous financial contribution to her a “youthful indiscretion (Ginger, web.archive.org 5/31/14).” Landrieu had often faced tough election campaigns in “Red-trending” LA, but had won. This time, she lost to Cassidy by an 11.8% margin (LA Sec. of State). Right-wing Koch Industries, pleased with Cassidy’s pro-fossil fuel and social conservative record, has given him at least $46,200 during the current 2013-2018 campaign cycle. Koch is one of Cassidy’s top contributors (opensecrets.org).
In the Senate, Cassidy is a strong right-wing GOPer. In 2016, Trump carried LA by 19.6 %. Based on Trump’s LA victory margin, Cassidy should have voted with Demagogue Donald 85.4% of the time. In fact, Cassidy is a near rubber stamper of Donald’s. Sen. Cassidy votes in line with Trump’s positions 95.9% of the time (fivethirtyeight.com). As a physician, Cassidy’s stand on health care repeal is watched by his fellow GOP colleagues. Cassidy currently sits on the powerhouse Senate Energy & Natural Resources, Finance, and Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committees (Congress At Your Fingertips, 115th Congress). Freshman Sen Cassidy is a “Team Red” up-and-comer.
Many political analysts do not think that the Cassidy-Graham bill has much chance of passing. Donald is now emphasizing tax “reform.” However, Donald indicated that he would still sign a health care repeal bill that gets to his desk and is currently pushing Cassidy-Graham (thehill.com, Sullivan, 9/11/17). According to Sen. Graham, Trump “loves” the idea of block grants (cnbc.com, Mangan, 9/11/17, “Politico,” Everett, 9/07/17). VP Pence and Speaker Ryan are encouraging Cassidy’s bill. House Speaker Ryan stated that the Cassidy proposal “has got merit and has legs under it (bloomberg.com, Litvan & Dennis,9/07/17).” Cassidy-Graham also has the backing of some GOP governors (NY Times, Pear, 9/13/17). Although Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is working with Democrats on a bipartisan bill to stabilize insurance rates in the Obamacare market, he stated that the Senate can consider “both proposals.” TX’s John Cornyn, the Senate’s #2 GOPer, stated that although repealing Obamacare was “very difficult,” he would be in “front of the line” to try again (bloomberg.com, 9/07/17). Libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) opposes Cassidy-Graham, but thinks other Senators could agree to it (thehilll.com, Sullivan, 9/11/17). Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated that he’ll bring it (Cassidy-Graham) up “if we can get 50 votes (Slate, Newell, J. 9/12/17).”
The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that after 9/30/2017, the GOP can’t use the reconciliation procedure or just 51 votes to pass health care repeal. After 9/30/2017, the GOP would need an impossible 60 vote threshold to break a Democratic filibuster. Republicans want to use their next 51-vote reconciliation vehicle for tax “reform,” not health care repeal (Everett, “Politico,” 9/07/17).
Although repealing Obamacare presently looks fairly difficult to do with the clock running near the end of the political “fourth quarter,” we have seen this “movie” before. House Speaker Ryan had initially pulled consideration of a repeal Obamacare bill because he didn’t have the votes. However, Trump buddy Cong. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) revived this zombie bill on a legal notepad with VP Pence and GOP leadership cheerleading. The fight to repeal Obamacare then went to the Senate where Majority Leader McConnell kept trying over and over and over to pass it. Democrats, moderates, and all those who want to preserve Obamacare must publicly rally to make sure that Dr. Cassidy’s “harmful medicine,” this last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill, gets flushed down the Senate drain. Cassidy-Graham must be buried deep in its zombie swamp before the 9/30/2017 reconciliation deadline passes.