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Senate Dems Skip College Sportsball Game To Talk All Night About Obamacare. Is That Even Legal?
Hope you've been making regular contributions to your health savings account...
Democratic Senators launched their efforts to hold the line against Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act Monday by holding a multi-hour talkathon on the floor of the Senate and on social media -- it wasn't quite a filibuster, but it was a five-hour marathon of speeches about the positive impact the ACA has had for Americans, and a chance to tell the stories of the people who'll be hurt if Republicans are successful in repealing it. The effort was organized by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who summed up the theme of the night in a statement:
We cannot allow Republicans to make America sick again by repealing the ACA without a replacement plan that will ensure millions of Americans are not kicked off of their insurance, seniors do not face cuts to their Medicare, women are not denied access to care because of their gender, and many other groups, including Medicaid recipients, rural hospitals and more, do not suffer [...] Right now, the GOP’s plan would put the insurance companies back in the driver’s seat and create chaos in the system instead of affordable care.
The event combined floor speeches and livestreams on Facebook, like this one featuring Elizabeth Warren and some medical students who call attention to research they've done showing that for every 860 people who'll lose their ACA coverage, one person will die. That stacks up rather a lot when you consider a total repeal of Obamacare would cause about 20 million people to lose their coverage. That's roughly 35,000 deaths. A year. And there's much, much more, a veritable parade of Democrats including Oregon's Jeff Merkley, Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar, New York's Kirsten Gillibrand, and more. Yes, it's an hour. Listen to it while you fix dinner later:
This would be an excellent time for you to call your very own Senators and Representative to let them know your feelings on ACA appeal. That's a phone call, not an email, because phone calls are harder to ignore.
And how did Republicans respond to the Democratic effort? North Dakota Sen. John Thune, who beat the far better Tom Daschle in 2004, wasn't especially worried, because he assumes Americans had far better things to worry about than 35,000 uninsured people dying a year:
“I guess this is kind of part of their grieving process, still coming off the election and looking for any opportunity to protest,” said Senate GOP Conference Chairman John Thune.
“It is what it is,” the South Dakota Republican added. “People tonight are going to be watching the national championship game, not listening to their speeches.”
Stupid Democrats. We hear there was a pretty big f'ball game Monday night, but the Senate Dems went on anyway in the quaint belief that at least a portion of Americans might care about both sportsball and health care, particularly, let's say, parents of young people who won't be able to remain on their parents' insurance through the age of 26 if the ACA is repealed. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow thinks health insurance is definitely as important as which university team has bragging rights for the next year:
“We have over two million people in Michigan alone that are now getting covered because of the Affordable Care Act, and so this is all about activating people to get engaged and involved because there’s a lot here at stake, including for people with insurance, by the way,” Stabenow said. “This really is an issue that covers everybody.”
At the end of the evening, a bit after midnight, Sen. Cory Booker, the final speaker, did what he could to bring the evening to a rousing close by saying he'd like to drop the mic. Unfortunately, it was a small plastic clip-on mic, the size of a Sharpie. It didn't so much "thump" when it hit the floor -- it "clacked" instead. But it was a mic drop all the same.
Elsewhere on the Republican side, there was other Obamacare news Monday. Nevada Sen. Dean Heller seemed to accidentally admit that whatever the Republican "replacement" for the ACA (if any) turns out to be, it won't cover as many people. Uh, not that that's a problem?
"I would anticipate nobody’s going to lose their health care for the next two or three years until the replacement is put in place. I think that’s pretty fair," he said.
And after two or three years?
"That’s a lot of prospective thinking," Heller said. "You can ask me in two or three years."
No big -- they'll put off the one death in 860 insurance losses for a little while. That ought to satisfy everyone, huh?
Also, don't go getting your hopes up too much, but Jonathan Chait at New York magazine sees a very real possibility the R's may have already lost momentum in their drive to immediately repeal the ACA and then delay the implementation of the repeal for a few years so they won't suffer political consequences:
If Republicans lose three Senate votes, that drops them to 49, and repeal and delay cannot pass. At least three Republican senators (in addition to all the Democrats) now oppose repeal and delay. Rand Paul, of all people, has demanded that Congress repeal Obamacare at the same time it passes a plan to replace it. Paul has announced that he spoke with Trump and secured his agreement on this. Trump has not said so himself, confining his comments to date to a vague assurance, “That’s all gonna work out.”
In addition, Chait says Lamar Alexander, Tom Cotton, and Bob Corker seem to be wavering on repeal-and delay, and may insist an ACA replacement be included at the same time as any repeal. Democrats are firm on not helping with a replacement that scraps the ACA, and so there goes repeal and delay, says Chait. Maybe. It's too soon to be laying in supplies of confetti and balloons, but Chait's article is a fascinating look at how political reality may be starting to sink in, at least for some Republican Senators.
But don't read it until after you've made those phone calls, OK?