For seven years Republican leadership begged and pleaded with conservatives to rally behind them to repeal Obamacare. The Tea Party movement was founded for that very reason. The GOP was able to manipulate the movement and use the political uprising to gain control of the House, Senate, and finally the Presidency in 2016, although President Trump was not the first choice of GOP leadership. Now Republican leadership is facing a massive backlash for not supporting legislative efforts they claimed they wanted to undertake when they had no power, but are scared or incapable of undertaking now that they do have power.
The vote was not what everyone wanted, but it was at least a start towards the legislative agenda laid out by the President. Obamacare premiums were killing those with insurance, and many major insurers were leaving the exchanges because of the astronomical costs. The “Skinny Repeal” would be a step in the right direction of repairing the epidemic damage done to the healthcare system by Obamacare. Then it came time to vote, and three Republican Senators sank the effort.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is likely to run for Governor so she had nothing to lose. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) just doesn’t like the President and is unlikely to agree with anything the President wants to do. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) had no reason to vote against the skinny repeal of Obamacare, especially given her history.
Murkowski’s vote was stunning. The Senator had written a stinging op-ed about the law’s harmful repercussions on Alaskans. The op-ed discusses the double digit premium hikes and thousands of Alaskans kicked off their insurance because of Obamacare. The Alaskan Senator ran for re-election on a platform of repealing Obamacare. Murkowski was also one of 48 current Senators that voted for the full repeal of Obamacare in 2015.
Murkowski was gifted the Senate seat by her father Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) in 2002. At the time, the elder Murkowski was a sitting U.S. Senator for the state. He decided to run for governor but did not give up his seat until after he won the election. He celebrated his win by giving the Senate seat he held to his daughter.
Murkowski didn’t just vote against Obamacare repeal, the Senator branded the entire Republican Party with a scarlet “E”, for Establishment. People are not looking at the vote as being solely cast by Murkowski, they see it as a failure of Republican leadership to deliver on a promise, and the lack of action is destroying the Republican brand.
You can already see the trouble this is going to cause for Republican leadership in the upcoming primaries for the 2018 midterm elections. At the recent Minnesota state fair, four out of five candidates at a Republicans candidate’s forum declined to back House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
In the Senate, Alabama is having a special election to replace the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions(R-Ala.). GOP leadership is putting millions behind the appointed Senator, Luther Strange (R-Ala.). Despite this, Roy Moore seems to be walking away with the election while publicly stating he will not support Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The inability of GOP leadership to pass the agenda that the people voted them into office for is now becoming the campaign issue for the 2018 primary season. Republican voters no longer have faith in leadership and a new poll from McLaughlin & Associates shows the reality facing GOP leadership. Only 14 percent of Republican voters and 11 percent of Independents thought that Ryan and McConnell should keep their jobs, with 15 percent support overall.
The Republican leadership has no one to blame but themselves. The people that supported their candidates are not paid union “volunteers”. They are families giving up their spare time to campaign for an idea they believe in. A mother missed a soccer game because she was door knocking. A father missed his daughter hitting the winning shot at a basketball game because he was phone banking. They feel betrayed.
If the GOP wishes to remove the scarlet E from their chest, they have 18 days from today to remove it. The fiscal year ends September 31, and with it, the reconciliation rule for 2017. By passing, at least, the skinny repeal, GOP leadership can show the Republican base it is worth keeping around. After all, it is the base that shows up and votes in primaries.