While the rest of the country has been transfixed by Trumpian chaos, members of the Senate have spent the last two weeks talking about taking health insurance from millions of Americans.
There is an alarmingly large chance that they’ll decide to do so. But if they do, they will almost certainly rely on a political sleight of hand to disguise their bill’s damage. Understanding that sleight of hand — and calling attention to it — offers the best hope for defeating the bill.
The effort to take health insurance from the middle class and poor and funnel the savings into tax cuts for the rich is a little like mold. It grows best in the dark.
That’s why Republican leaders in the House handled their bill as they did. They did not hold a single hearing, because they knew that attention would have been devastating.
Just imagine a hearing featuring the leaders of these groups, every one of which opposes the House bill: the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Hospital Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Lung Association, March of Dimes and AARP.
The House also passed its final bill without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to estimate how many Americans would lose insurance. The C.B.O. will release that analysis tomorrow afternoon. There is no precedent, outside of wartime, for passing a bill this important in such haste.
After the House did, many observers assumed the bill was too flawed to have much chance in the Senate. Republican senators, aware of the bill’s unpopularity, were careful to say publicly that they would start fresh. But the early signs suggest that Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus are actually mimicking the House approach.
In other words, expect the Senate to pass a bill exactly like the House did: with no public hearings, with no CBO score, and with no input from Democrats. And considering Trump's planned budget is already going to destroy Medicaid anyway, the combination of the two will wipe out health insurance for tens of millions.
But of course, that's the point. The GOP budget plan is lethal, trillions of tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, and trillions more in social program cuts for Medicaid, SNAP, college loans, and more on top of massive cuts to government departments that will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The damage will be done, and 2020 will be far too late to fix it.