I won't cut them any slack for their promises, but any Republican who promised they could repeal Obamacare with less than 60 Senate votes was lying to you. Before you get too mad at them, consider this: anybody who believed that lie is willfully ignorant. Because you can't repeal Obamacare without 60 Senate votes.
But they passed a repeal in December 2015 and Obama vetoed it! Why don't they just pass that same bill now?!
Great! Let's do that! And I will be first in line with you to call out the hypocrisy of Senators Portman, Murkowski, and Capito, who voted "yes" back then but say they will vote "no" this time. But just so we're on the same page here: that bill didn't repeal Obamacare. I know that's what they said it did, but it didn't. It was a partial repeal of parts of Obamacare. And if we are not on the same page, it can only be because you are wrong. It isn't an opinion, it's a fact. You can't repeal Obamacare without 60 Senate votes.
But they snuck Obamacare through reconciliation, why can't the GOP do the same thing?!
No, they didn't. They passed it on Christmas Eve 2009 with 60 Senate votes, including Paul Kirk, who had been appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to fill the seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy's death. The Senate passed the unamended House version, because they could see it was increasingly likely that Scott Brown would take away their 60th vote in the upcoming special election. That law was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare. Few Democrats liked the bill, but that was all they could vote into law. They used that sneaky reconciliation trick for a second, smaller bill that modified a bunch of "revenue-related" items. That law was called the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. (Fun fact: this second bill also repealed the "Cornhusker Kickback.") Was the process all above-board and in keeping with the spirit of the Byrd Rule and history of the Senate? No. But Obamacare passed with 60 votes, and that's the only way it is getting repealed.
Okay, so why don't we just rip the rulebook up even more? Or eliminate the filibuster?
That's an option. It's the neutron bomb option, and you better be prepared to live with the consequences when Democrats have the majority again, because here comes single payer. (Also worth noting - the GOP just failed to get 50 votes, so 60 isn't really the issue right now anyway.)
Why does stupid Mitch McConnell keep negotiating with liberals like Collins and Murkowski!?
You can't repeal Obamacare without 60 senate votes. Republicans only have 52 senate votes. That means you can't even pass an incremental step without almost all of them on board. Got that? Lee, Cruz, Murkowski, and Capito all have to vote for the same thing. Let's just assume we won't get Paul or Collins on board. And that thing they might all vote on? It won't be repeal. Here is another hard truth: if Scott Brown had taken office in time to filibuster Obamacare back in 2009, Democrats would have negotiated with Collins, because they wanted a win.
But I'm tired of incremental steps! Democrats don't do that!
That's exactly what Democrats do. We didn't get here overnight. We haven't had a "free market" in health care in generations. Obamacare was an incremental step. It was a big increment, but it was not even close to what the left wing wanted. And if we leave it untouched, they'll add to it next time they have majorities. Incrementally. So we can incrementally move the other way, and at least make it harder for them, or sit on the porch swing watching the sun set on America. That's what the purists want.
But THE PEOPLE voted for Trump because they want Obamacare repealed!
I hate to break this to you, but they didn't vote for that at all. Trump, in the course of his campaign, came out in favor of single payer, in favor of repeal, in favor of "covering everybody," and God knows what else. Hell, in the last 24 hours he has staked out at least three different positions! It is literally impossible to disappoint Donald Trump with any kind of health care bill you might pass. He just wants to declare a "win," and when he does, his "base" will be fine with it.
And if we are just looking at the political fallout, he's right. Because it so happens that the majority of "the people" approve of Obamacare. Also, a majority of "the people" want to either repeal it completely or change it "big league." How can you satisfy or disappoint them?
You see, what "the people" want is not a free market. Most of them want Unicorn-care. They want free, cheap, and abundant coverage for everything, and they don't want to feel guilty that somebody, somewhere doesn't have the same thing. Neither party is ever going to pass that, because it's a fantasy. Your base just wants a win, not a repeal.
So what are we going to do?
- Leave Obamacare in place, because it's all or nothing? Then you failed. You lost.
- Pass something incremental that nobody is crazy about but it maybe takes a step in the right direction? Because it's good for the country? Because you might actually gain seats if you go out and say you "repealed and replaced?" And then maybe next session you take another step?
I heard a lot last year about how Republicans don't "fight." They don't understand you just need to win! Well, an incremental, soup sandwich of a health care bill is the only win on the table right now. Not repeal, not free markets, and certainly not unicorns.
And that's because without 60 senate votes, you can't repeal Obamacare, you won't repeal Obamacare, and you never could have repealed Obamacare. Period. Paragraph.