If you didn’t see Mike Coffman at the White House “victory” party, you can’t exactly blame him. After voting “no” on Trumpcare, which passed narrowly without him, he was probably at home enjoying his own private celebration.
He’s off the hook, at least for now, on a vote that was pure lose-lose for him — and, if history is any judge, puts his seat at risk. Now all the pressure goes directly to the Senate and to Cory Gardner, who had already begun to back away from the House bill.
The House was so desperate to be rid of radioactive Trumpcare that they voted on it without waiting for the CBO to score it and without (in a pretty delicious irony) sufficient time to have even read the bill.
For those of us keeping score at home, there are a couple of things we know without benefit of a CBO score: The Obamacare “repeal” bill wasn’t exactly a repeal. And the “victory” wasn’t a victory at all. Despite the beaming smile on the sick-of-winning face of Donald Trump, the only victory was that the bill would be sent to the Senate, where it faces what they like to call an uncertain future.
In fact, the biggest selling point for those Republicans reluctant to vote for the House bill was that they shouldn’t worry because the Senate would never pass it as constituted. You have to hope that’s true since the bill’s first CBO score estimated that 24 million people would lose their health care coverage and that a typical 64-year-old woman could see her premiums rise by more than 700 percent. And, yes, this version of the bill is even worse, which explains why nearly every industry and consumer group, from the AMA to AARP, strongly opposed the bill
So how much of a victory is this for Trump? In terms he might understand, he held a victory party at half time. In the second half, the unpopular bill goes to the Senate where it will stay for months. The senators will destroy much of the House bill and then possibly — although hardly certainly — pass a bill that, in overtime, would never get through the House. All the while, the unpopular bill stays in the headlines.
The big argument now is whether it’s better for Republicans to pass a bill — which would expose the fact that Trump’s terrificare was more terrifying than terrific — or to suffer the humiliation of passing nothing at all.
Not surprisingly, the Senate-won’t-vote-it gambit was not a good enough argument for Coffman, who has had weeks to mull over his gaffe on the first iteration of the bill. As you may remember, Coffman publicly supported a bill so unpopular that the House couldn’t even bring it to a vote. Meanwhile, Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com estimated that voters in Coffman’s CD-6 opposed Trumpcare by a whopping 53-31 margin.
So, this time, Coffman announced just prior to the vote that he was opposed, just to make sure in all the tumult that no one missed the fact. According to a Denver Post report, Coffman was lobbied by the president and the Vice President in the half hour leading up to the vote. Coffman still resisted.
Coffman would say in his announcement opposing the bill that he was worried about putting at risk coverage of the “small percentage” of those with pre-existing conditions and that, in any case, he would never vote for a bill this significant without a CBO score. Of course, he had knownfor days there would be no CBO score. And he also knows that that the small percentage could include many hundreds of thousands of people.
It’s a terrible bill, which is why it needed so long to get through a House that had voted dozens of times to repeal Obamacare over the last seven years. And if, like Coffman, you somehow missed the party in the Rose Garden, you’ll have many chances to see it in attack ads showing Republicans wildly celebrating what turns out to be a massive tax cut for the rich to be paid for by reducing or eliminating coverage for the poor and for the near poor and for those who are sicker and for those who are older.
Meanwhile, the bill would also cut nearly $900 million from Medicaid while, in order to win over the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, allowing state to waive requirements that cap costs for those with pre-existing conditions and also the requirement that essential benefits like maternity care and mental health care are covered.
You could see where this is headed. In the midterms after Obamacare was passed, Democrats were crushed, losing 63 votes in the House and the majority. Will something similar happen to Republicans if they repeal much of Obamacare? Now, for the first time, Obamacare has majority support. Mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions has overwhelming support, as does Medicaid.
And whether the bill passes or not, it is now, finally, the official Republican response to Obamacare. Nancy Pelosi called it a tattoo that Republicans will wear on their foreheads. We’ll see what that means for Coffman, who now has a would-be yes vote as well as a no vote on his scorecard. If I were advising Coffman, I’d tell him to wear a Rockies cap just to be sure.
Photo: Stephen Nulty via Flickr Creative Commons