The GOP Has a Sinister Solution to Finding the Votes They Need for Their Health Care Bill

News & Politics

The bad news? The evaluation of the new Senate Republican health care bill by the Congressional Budget Office shows that 22 million people will lose their health care over the next decade, most of those in the next year. 

But there’s good news. Stripping Americans of their health care turns out to be more lucrative than expected. With the massive cuts to both individual subsidies and even more massive cuts to Medicaid, the Republicans looked into the bottom of the their plan and found some change left over.

Republicans in the White House and in Congress were pleasantly surprised that the bill included more savings than they expected — and are trying to figure out if they can dole it out for votes.

The Senate has about $188 billion to play with

$188 billion represents a fraction of the cost of the plan. It’s not enough to reverse the cuts to Medicaid. It’s not enough to reverse the increase in what individuals would pay. It’s not enough to stem the bleeding, figurative and literal, that the bill will create. But while it won’t buy Americans health care, it can buy Republicans some votes.

White House and Capitol Hill officials are exploring potential deals to divvy up billions of dollars to individual senators’ priorities in a wide-ranging bid to secure votes for the imperiled GOP health care bill.

That makes today officially “side deal Tuesday,” as Mitch McConnell goes from senator to senator, offering to sweeten the deal. Which means that Republicans are moving toward a place where the bill not only puts 22 million Americans lives on the line, it does it to buy a few Republican senators something nice.

$188 Billion is still quite a bit of money—enough to drop the healthcare bills of those 22 million who are expected to lose coverage by $850 a year for the next decade. But of course, stripping coverage from individuals is how the bill generated these “savings” in the first place, and the idea of ‘sweeting the pot’ for Americans affected by the Republican bill doesn’t seem to be one of the options.

Instead, Senators and McConnell are browsing a smorgasbord of possible goodies.

One Senate aide said that Tuesday would be "all about side deals," and another person familiar with the discussions said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had already begun talking about private deals.

"There's no one-size-fits all to getting these people on board," said one White House official. "Each of them want different things and we have to figure out if there is a path."

There are some Republicans who have already made their selections from the menu ...

Among the possible changes: More spending for health savings accounts to appease conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, according to three people familiar with the matter, and some additional Medicaid and opioid spending for moderates.

But Cruz and Lee would vote for the bill even if it promised to kick 200 million Americans off of insurance. Especially if it promised to kick 200 million people off of insurance. The temptation to pair off this pair simply so you don’t have to listen to them may be high, but the bulk of those billions are sure to be dangled in a particular place …

White House officials said they were increasingly looking to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) — and if the two maintained their opposition, the bill was likely dead. Senate leadership has largely written off Paul, and a Trump outside group has begun attacking Heller, drawing some head-scratching from Senate aides.

Say … what if the government was to buy a lot of coal. A lot of coal. From Kentucky, of course, because that the best, and just pile it up somewhere in … hmm, a brand new storage facility in Nevada? A strategic coal reserve against the day when we might need to load up a lot of trains with a product no one needs.

No matter where it goes, the end result is that the bill will save nothing, but cost a lot for both the 22 million who lose health care and the many millions more who get worse, more expensive health care.

That probably sounds a lot better to Trump and other Republicans than securing the health of Americans.

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