President-elect Donald Trump claimed that he wanted to keep certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as those which protect people with pre-existing conditions and allow children to remain on their parents' insurance plans until age 26. But the Senate's middle-of-the-night vote, followed by his congratulatory tweet, proves how empty his promises were.
Shortly after his first meeting with President Obama following the election in November, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would like to keep intact crucial provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the ban on discriminating against people for pre-existing conditions and the requirement that children be allowed to stay on their parents' plans until age 26.
But, in a surprise vote at 1:30 in the morning on Thursday, the Senate passed a procedural resolution which moves forward with repealing Obamacare. If the House approves it as well, it gives the green light for the Budget Committees to start drafting budget reconciliation bills that will repeal large parts of President Obama's signature healthcare law.
Voted down tonight in Senate
❌ Keep preexisting conditions protection
❌ Let young adults stay on parents plan
❌ Keep contraceptive coverage
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) January 12, 2017
When Senate Democrats put forth amendments trying to protect the very same portions of the ACA that Trump promised to protect, Republicans voted them down. While it would be very difficult for Republicans to repeal those provisions in a budget reconciliation bill, which legally can only address budgetary items, their vote to kill the Democratic amendments proves that Trump's promises are not their priority.
And, far from being angry that Senate Republicans are ignoring the promise he made to voters, Trump took to Twitter in celebration.
Congrats to the Senate for taking the first step to #RepealObamacare- now it's onto the House!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
Either Trump was outright lying that he would protect the popular provisions of Obamacare in order to get elected, or he has been convinced by someone on his transition team that those provisions are not worth protecting.
To that end, it is crucial to recall that Vice President-elect Mike Pence is leading the Republican strategy sessions on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and that Trump actively sought a vice-president who would run policy.
During the vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the floor to remind the Republicans they have no popular mandate for what they are doing:
In a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, only 28% percent of Americans support repealing the law if there is no current plan for replacing it. Less than one third. That’s the Republican base.
But two thirds of Americans support the provision that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions. 63% support letting kids stay on their parent’s plan until they are 26. And there are similar numbers on the other major benefits of health reform.
Those are key features of the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans cannot please their base and the broader public at the same time.
From a policy perspective, they can’t repeal the law and keep in place the provisions that are overwhelmingly popular with a majority of Americans. That’s why they’re in such a pickle.
Mr. President, the Affordable Care Act is not despised by the American people, only the hard right of the Republican base, which is fervently anti-government.
They oppose the ACA because they oppose everything that government does, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
If Republicans go forward with this plan, they may mollify their base, but they will ostracize and hurt the American people, and ultimately lose in the court of public opinion.
And NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue issued a statement focusing on the detrimental impact repealing the ACA would have on reproductive rights:
This move by congressional Republicans is the opening salvo in one of the greatest assaults on Americans’ access to health care in recent history. Never before have our elected representatives acted so ruthlessly to deny medical care to so many—and to women in particular—nor so cynically degrade the quality of care accessible to every single American. Make no mistake about it: despite their political posturing, Republican leaders have never had a plan to replace the health care they are now trying to take away from the American people. Their obsession with defunding Planned Parenthood and rolling back our health care is purely partisan, and would devastate Americans’ rights for the sake of politics.
"The GOP’s cowardly middle-of-the-night attack on Americans' health care is both politically foolish and betrays the 100-year struggle by presidents of both parties to help every American access affordable health care," said DNC Deputy Communications Director Eric Walker in a statement. "The Republican Party will regret the day they tried to take away Americans’ health care in the dead of night."
It is clear that Congressional Republicans have no interest in upholding Trump's promise to Americans who are worried about losing their coverage — and that Trump's own vice president is not concerned with honoring it, either.
So far, it does not appear even Trump himself is inclined to keep his promise.