mitch mcconnell
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

By choosing to use the Senate’s reconciliation process to pass their repeal of Obamacare, which only requires 51 votes, Republicans basically said that they weren’t interested in any input from Democrats. That means that ultimately, what happens to McConnell’s bill in the Senate is all on them.

Let’s take a look at what they’re hearing from conservatives who occasionally travel outside of the epistemically closed bubble of right wing news. Avik Roy has been the conservative voice in opposition to Obamacare. He wrote his support for the Republican Senate alternative before CBO released their devastating report yesterday. You have to wonder if he’s still willing to say this:

The Senate health-care legislative draft — officially titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 — will, if passed, represent the greatest policy achievement by a Republican Congress in generations.

Roy claims that the bill will result in lower out-of-pocket costs, more competition among insurers, a more efficient and effective Medicaid program, with this as the final product:

The end result will be a thriving, consumer-driven individual insurance market, with as many as 30 million participants, available to the healthy and the sick and the young and the old, whose successes will lay the groundwork for future efforts at entitlement reform.

He probably knew that the coming CBO score of the bill would challenge those claims (it actually destroyed them), so he threw a punch early.

Credible experts on both sides of the aisle are skeptical of the CBO’s projections. The agency has yet to adjust its overly static thinking.

We might call Roy’s response the “fantasy-land” approach. Hugh Hewitt doesn’t bother with any of the particulars about what the bill will/won’t accomplish. He provides an “it’s all about the base” approach.

The political crosswinds and upheavals in the country are already beyond predicting anything, so to add even more cause for grievance by betraying the central promise of the congressional GOP is beyond irresponsible. It is political insanity. Shut the door to the consultants, and throw out the polling senators. If the GOP defaults on its core promise, it is doomed as a party to minority status, probably as early as 2018 and certainly in 2020…

To vote “no” on whatever compromise arrives is to express contempt for the Republican Party as a whole – and its grass-roots activists and base voters — and for those ideas it stands for on all major matters, from a strong defense to low taxes to an originalist Supreme Court.

Hewitt has a point. Republicans have been promising to repeal Obamacare for eight years now and there are elements of their base who will be enraged if they fail to deliver. But that is the bind they put themselves in from the beginning. Senators like Heller from Nevada and Collins from Maine have to balance that reality with the fact that their statewide constituents are not necessarily part of that deep red base Hewitt is referring to. The fate of those senators could just as easily be doomed by choosing to support this bill that will be a nightmare for so many.

One of the most interesting people to watch over these last few months has been Jennifer Rubin. At her “Right Turn” column, she has typically been the voice of conservatives at the Washington Post. Since the election of Trump, she has become one of his most ardent critics. But apparently that now extends to what Republicans are trying to do on health care in the Senate. Given that her latest is titled, “How could any senator justify a vote for a bill this bad?” her approach might be called the “WTF are you thinking” response.

Rubin has questions for Marco Rubio on what the cuts to Medicaid will do to those in Florida who rely on Medicaid to cover the costs of care in a nursing home, for John McCain and Jeff Flake about what will happen to the 400,000 Arizonans who have coverage via Medicaid, for Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy about the state budget cuts that will be necessary when their Medicaid costs go up, and for Shelley Moore Capito and Rob Portman about what will happen to treatment for opioid addiction as a result of this bill.

Those three conservatives give you a pretty good summary of the problems Republicans face in defending the bill. Beyond a “WTF are you thinking?” they’ve got a promise to their base supporters and a fantasy-land description about what the legislation will do. Oh…and I suppose there’s the tax cuts for the wealthy—which are what this is actually all about.

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