The United States Senate is letting down the American people by failing to advance any solution for the disaster that is Obamacare. It has rejected its own repeal and replace plan, it has rejected the 2015 repeal, and in the latest failure, it rejected the “skinny repeal” plan.
What was the skinny repeal plan? It was a plan to repeal Obamacare’s employer and individual mandates and a few other things. The Senate leadership reached out to House Speaker Paul Ryan to get assurances that if skinny repeal passed, the House of Representatives would agree to a conference committee.
The conference committee is the process whereby the House and the Senate get together to work out their differences on legislation. Speaker Ryan publicly gave his assurances that if the skinny repeal had passed, the bill would be sent to conference.
The skinny repeal plan wasn’t going to be the final shape of Obamacare’s replacement. If the skinny repeal were passed and signed into law, I believe in some ways it would have made the health insurance situation worse. But it was a vehicle to get to a conference report. In conference, the Senate and the House would have been able to work together on a better plan for all Americans.
On July 25, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) gave a much-lauded speech blasting his own chamber of Congress, saying, “We’re getting nothing done… Our healthcare insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done.” Yet he cast the decisive vote killing skinny repeal, possibly closing the door to actually doing something on health insurance. I hope he will reconsider his choice.
I believe the Senate’s failure to pass any plan on Obamacare is an abdication of its duty and responsibility as a legislative body. The House of Representatives passed a plan that would have improved things for Americans. It isn’t perfect, but we debated it and voted on it and now it is on the table as a solution. How can we improve health insurance if the Senate won’t engage in dialogue and legislative craftsmanship on our plan or even put its own on the table?
People are hurting because of Obamacare. Obamacare is in a free fall, so we must act. I don’t agree with those who say let’s just stick with Obamacare and let the pain get worse. We cannot leave the American middle class swinging in the breeze. We have to try to bring down health insurance costs so that American families can buy insurance they can afford to use.
So what now? Senator McCain says we need to return to regular order, but for the Senate, that would require a 60-vote margin. If they can’t get to 51, how are they going to get to 60?
If the Senate continues to fail, I propose we take Democrats at their word and start working with them to fix the worst of Obamacare. In the past, there have been times when Democrats would offer words of cooperation only to obstruct any attempt to find solutions. But if they are serious, and if their constituents are hurting as many of my constituents are hurting, we should be able to fix some of the most serious issues related to health insurance today.
When reading some of the Democratic comments about solutions, however, I am reminded of the adage, “Solving a problem first requires admitting there is one.” In a Roanoke Times story about Senator Tim Kaine’s rally at Roanoke College on July 22, Kaine said, “I don’t want to accept the status quo,” but apparently spent most of the rally defending Obamacare.
Some people are better off with Obamacare, but for the majority of my constituents, that is simply not the case. Families are being squeezed by higher premiums, higher deductibles, and higher co-pays, making the insurance they are mandated by law to buy of marginal value. Obamacare has caused these problems, and defending it will not solve them.
I stand ready to work with my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans. The sooner, the better. Right now, that may mean working to fix the worst problems with Obamacare rather than repeal and replace. But we need to act. Democrats say they are ready to help. If these are just words, they will continue to own the damage inflicted on families by Obamacare.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.