On Tuesday, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote on the health care bill vote, it just confirmed the difficult position the GOP already knew it was in. Republicans' replacement for the Affordable Care Act faces criticism both from conservative senators frustrated that the bill doesn't go far enough and moderates balking at the coverage losses and Medicaid cuts. The bill is stuck between a rock and a hard place, ideologically — and similarly, so are Republicans.
After seven years of promising to repeal Obamacare, Republicans were set back yet again from reaching their goal when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the health care bill on Tuesday before it could get a vote. The bill to replace the Affordable Care Act faces criticism both from conservative senators frustrated that the bill doesn't go far enough and from moderates balking at the coverage losses and Medicaid cuts. The bill is stuck between a rock and a hard place, ideologically.
But in a larger sense, it's getting squeezed politically by the American people. It is about as unpopular as anything that has ever been polled — a Suffolk poll on Wednesday found that just 12 percent of Americans (and just 26 percent of Republicans) support it.
With how bad the health care reform process has become for Republicans, it may already be too late to appease their base. "All the promises, for years, were to repeal Obamacare," Michael Kinzie, founder of Tea Party 911, a Republican grassroots group, tells Bustle. "Not replace it, but repeal it. It's evolved into this repeal and replace. And that's not what the grassroots want."
Kinzie has been leaning toward agreeing with Sen. Rand Paul, that it's worse to "pass a bad bill than to pass no bill." Kinzie says the Tea Party movement plans to continue its efforts to run primary challenges against establishment Republicans in the hopes of turning Congress more conservative, but they don't see blocking this bill as a litmus test.
Some moderate Republicans see the political downsides of this bill as far outweighing any upside from keeping the promise.
"Will the Republican base sustain us and help counter the momentum Democrats clearly have against Republicans and Trump?" Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist and author of GOP GPS: How to Find the Millennials and Urban Voters the Republican Party Needs to Survive, tells Bustle. Siegfried has come out hard against the Senate health care bill, which he thinks doesn't fix the American health care system and could spell electoral doom for the party. Healthcare is an issue that's too hard for Republicans to fight on, since voters "actually believe that their lives and the lives of their friends are at stake," according to Siegfried.
We were promised over and over to repeal Obamacare, and that is just not happening... So that's the betrayal. That's the betrayal right there.
"This is not something that Republicans really want to do right now," says Siegfried. "If Republicans had gone out and done tax reform instead, how many people would be so upset because Obamacare wasn't done first if they got tax reform? Tax reform is the most vital part of the legislative agenda, and it hasn't even been taken up yet."
If Republicans are hoping to get out of this health care mess by powering through and playing to their base, it may be too late for them to fix the mess they've created, and they won't get much credit just for passing a bill. "We were promised over and over to repeal Obamacare, and that is just not happening," says Kinzie. "So that's the betrayal. That's the betrayal right there."