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Political Editors / Jul. 8, 2017

McConnell Pushes Republicans on Health Reform

Either repeal it or fix it. Meanwhile, Sen. Toomey essentially blames pollaganda for Republicans’ lack of preparation.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), clearly frustrated by Senate Republicans’ lack of progress in developing legislation to replace the “Affordable” Care Act, said, “If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regards to the private health insurance market must occur. No action is not an alternative. We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.” Is McConnell seriously considering trying to “fix” ObamaCare as an alternative to repealing and replacing it? It may sound like he’s preparing for defeat, but the intent of the message is more nuanced.

McConnell didn’t get where he is by mistake — he’s a smart cookie and a talented legislator. By trolling the possibility that Republicans may not actually repeal ObamaCare, McConnell has just lit a fire under his fellow senators’ feet. He is also reminding them just how badly ObamaCare is hurting Americans. His message is clear: The failure to repeal and replace is just not an option, so get it done. Given the context, it’s easy to see McConnell’s intention.

But Sen. Pat Toomey’s recent comments are a different story.

Toomey (R-PA) answered a question regarding why Republicans have yet to repeal and replace ObamaCare. He said, “Look, I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win. I think most of my colleagues didn’t, so we didn’t expect to be in this situation.” What? After years of campaigning on their plans to overturn the onerous law, Republicans were not actually prepared to do so? It’s hard to believe — even if it’s tempting to do so — that Republicans were so wholly unprepared. But there’s no getting around Toomey’s statement. It looks bad from every angle. It sounds like the excuse a middle school student would give for failing to study for a test — the weatherman forecasted the high probability of school being canceled due to snow, only to see that not a flake fell. Sorry, but Toomey’s statement just doesn’t cut it.

The truth is somewhere in the middle, as several Republicans have indeed proposed various plans for repeal over the years. What is now more obvious than ever is just how little consensus on the particulars ever existed. Toomey’s answer also shows the impact of the pollaganda effect upon Republicans. If he’s correct, everyone had decided Hillary Clinton had it in the bag, and therefore assumed there was little value in working on repealing ObamaCare.

Hopefully, Republicans recognize they’d better get this done and soon, and they improve their message beyond, “Golly, we just weren’t prepared.”

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