The Koch Brothers vs. Jimmy Kimmel

I have written before that, for Republicans, the 2018 midterms are shaping up to be a battle of the oligarchs, pitting the Koch brothers and so-called “establishment Republicans” against Robert Mercer and his band of insurgents led by Steve Bannon. One thing that could empower the Mercer side of that equation is that the Koch brothers are not happy with what their wholly owned subsidiary—the Republican Party—has accomplished.

At a weekend donor retreat attended by at least 18 elected officials, the Koch brothers warned that time is running out to push their agenda, most notably healthcare and tax reform, through Congress…

The Senate will this week seek to pass its version of healthcare reform – at present it does not have enough Republican support to overcome blanket Democratic opposition.

“There is urgency,” said Tim Phillips, who leads Koch network’s political arm, Americans for Prosperity, at the industrialist brothers’ retreat in Colorado Springs. “We believe we have a window of about 12 months to get as much of it accomplished as possible before the 2018 elections grind policy to a halt.”…

In between meetings, Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican representative, predicted dire consequences in next year’s midterm elections should his party fail to deliver on its repeated promises.

“If we don’t get healthcare, none of us are coming back,” he said in a brief interview. “We said for seven years you’re gonna repeal Obamacare. It’s nowhere near repealed.”

Perhaps that gives you some idea of the urgency many Republicans feel about repealing Obamacare. Failure could mean massive losses in the midterms followed by a hostile takeover of the party by Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon.

The people who are fighting to preserve health insurance for 20-30 million people don’t have a sugar daddy in this fight. But last night, a secret weapon was released. His name is Jimmy Kimmel.

No one has done a better job of explaining what is at stake than Kimmel. He didn’t hesitate to call Sen. Cassidy (R-LA) a liar for promising that any bill he supported would pass the Kimmel test: “No family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can’t afford it.” Specifically, Cassidy had previously outlined four requirements for health care:

  • Provide health coverage for everyone
    Prevent discrimination against people with preexisting conditions
    Lower premiums for middle-class Americans
    Prohibit lifetime caps on insurance benefits

Kimmel demonstrated how Graham-Cassidy does none of those things and said, “Not only did Bill Cassidy fail the Jimmy Kimmel test, he failed the Bill Cassidy test.”

You might be dismissive and say that this is simply a late-night comedian weighing in. But I’d remind you that the current occupant of the White House is simply a reality TV star. This is the kind of thing that reaches Americans who have become cynical and disengaged from the political process. The difference is that Kimmel was weighing in on protecting health care for millions of people rather than running for president in service of his ego.

Only a small fraction of people in this country are likely to have watched Jimmy Kimmel Live last night when this segment aired. But the value of the internet is that millions more will see the YouTube version of it as it makes the rounds today… if we all share it.

The Koch brothers can spend their millions trying to take health care away from people. Jimmy Kimmel just gave us a way to level the playing field a bit.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.