On Monday evening, two Republican senators announced that they would not be supporting the revised Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), essentially "killing" Republicans' chances of passing the Obamacare replacement bill in its current form. While the revised BCRA will not move forward, the healthcare bill's failure should (sadly) not celebrated just yet. Republicans' own words, as well as history, have demonstrated that the fight to repeal Obamacare is not yet over.
Following Senate Republicans' failure to secure enough votes to pass the revised BCRA, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that, instead of trying to pass an Obamacare replacement bill, Senate Republicans will now seek to simply repeal Obamacare without a replacement bill, with the intention of delaying replacement to two years from now. As The Hill noted, the Senate passed similar repeal legislation in 2015, though it was vetoed by President Obama.
McConnell's announcement indeed demonstrates that Republicans still very much desire to dismantle Obamacare, with or without an immediate replacement. While it is unclear whether or not a straight repeal bill will garner enough Republican support to pass this time around, it is certainly concerning that a similar measure did indeed pass two years ago.
Moreover, history serves to show that Republicans have remained steadfastly committed to trying to repeal Obamacare ever since it passed. According to Reuters, during the Obama administration House Republicans voted on measures to repeal or alter parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over 60 times. These votes demonstrate the long-standing desire of Congressional Republicans to dismantle Obamacare.
A smart GOP operative told me in January: ACA died a hundred deaths before it passed; repeal won't pass before dying a hundred deaths.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) June 23, 2017
Furthermore, the fight to pass the Affordable Care Act also somewhat ironically demonstrates why the fate of healthcare legislation is still uncertain. The ACA was only passed after hundreds of hours of contentious debate and revision. Moreover, its passage was ultimately secured through the reconciliation process and not through traditional means, which have have required 60 votes to pass (a total which Senate Democrats could not reach after Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy passed away and a Republican was unexpectedly elected to replace him). Furthermore, some experts say Obamacare's passage was largely helped by the lessons learned through the Clinton administration's failed attempt to pass health care reform in the 1990s.
Indeed, both the long-fought battle to pass Obamacare as well as the many legislative attempts to repeal it during the Obama administration indicate that, unfortunately, health care reform is something that is perpetually controversial in Congress — and that there exists a very real risk that Republicans could repeal Obamacare without an immediate replacement. Doing so would, of course, be massively detrimental for Americans, of whom millions would lose insurance. Time will tell whether or not Republicans are willing to move forward with legislation with such dire consequences, though unfortunately history shows that this remains a strong possibility.