Here’s why Republicans could nix health coverage for 22,000,000

     Billionaire businessman and political donor David Koch is shown in 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, file)

    Billionaire businessman and political donor David Koch is shown in 2013. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, file)

    If you’re wondering why the craven Senate Republicans might vote this week for a bill that would throw 22,000,000 people off their health coverage by 2026 — a bill that’s vehemently condemned by every major medical group in America, a bill that was eviscerated yesterday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — then you simply need to know who’s really cracking the whip.

    It’s the filthy-rich donors who party with the Koch brothers.

    They want all vestiges of Obamacare wiped off the face of the earth. They don’t give a whit about the heavy human toll. They don’t mix with low-income wage earners and disabled people and middle-class denizens of Medicaid-supported nursing homes. That human collateral damage is out of sight, out of mind. They just want a return on their generous investments to the Republican party, in the form of hefty tax cuts, and they want that money now.

    Check out this Associated Press report about a private Koch brothers confab over the weekend:

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    “At least one influential donor has informed congressional Republicans that the ‘Dallas piggy bank’ is closed until he sees major action on health care … Texas-based donor Doug Deason has already refused to host a fundraiser for two members of Congress and informed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., his checkbook is closed as well.

    “‘Get Obamacare repealed and replaced …,’ Deason said in a pointed message to GOP leaders. ‘You control the Senate. You control the House. You have the presidency. There’s no reason you can’t get this done. Get it done and we’ll open it back up.’ [Deason] has encouraged nearly two dozen major Texas donors to follow his lead …

    “At least one Koch official warned that the Republican Party’s House majority could be in jeopardy if the GOP-led Congress doesn’t follow through. ‘If they don’t make good on these promises [to kill Obamacare] there are going to be consequences, and quite frankly there should be,’ said Sean Lansing, chief operating officer for the Koch network’s political arm, Americans For Prosperity.”

    There you have it.

    Senate Republicans are beholden to those people. Senate Republicans are terrified that the fat cats will turn off the spigot, or that they’ll finance right-wing challengers who are even more heartless than the current Republican crew. So Mitch McConnell knows he needs to deliver. And it just so happens that his “health” bill promises massive tax cuts for the rich — $700 billion over the next decade, particularly on investment income — and if 22 million little people need to suffer as a result, well, that’s just how Republicans roll.

    The fat cats who bankroll the party don’t care what the Congressional Budget Office says — even though the nonpartisan CBO is headed by a conservative Republican, Keith Hall. They don’t concern themselves with the stats that Hall’s agency laid out yesterday, like the fact that the massive tax cuts would be made possible by “reductions in outlays for Medicaid. Spending on the program would decline in 2026 by 26 percent.” (Medicaid provides coverage to more than 70 million people; the Republican bill would cut Medicaid by $772 billion over 10 years.)

    The CBO says that, under the Senate Republican bill, many people would face “substantial increases in what they would spend on health care.” The premiums might be lower; however, “because nongroup insurance would pay for a smaller average share of benefits under this legislation, most people purchasing it would have higher out-of-pocket spending on health care than under current law.” But donors in the Koch brothers club don’t concern themselves with such details, and their senate toadies are fine with lying their behalf. (Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, on CBS News two days ago, talking about Medicaid: “Nobody loses coverage.” How fitting that he said this on George Orwell’s birthday.)

    So this obscene health bill is a gut check for Mitch McConnell’s troops. Who do they truly represent — their bankrollers, or the average citizens they purport to serve? Aren’t there lots of Republicans living in nursing homes, dependent on Medicaid after exhausting all their savings?

    The “health” bill dies if only three Republican senators say no. Right now, two of them – Dean Heller and Susan Collins — are signaling no. Collins tweeted yesterday that the bill would “hurt [the] most vulnerable Americans.” If just one more Republican steps up — current skeptics include Bill Cassidy, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito, Ron Johnson, and Rand Paul — then perhaps the GOP will have demonstrated that it’s not beyond redemption.

    But unless or until that happens, I’ll stick with this Q & A.

    The Beatles: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”

    GOP: “Buzz off.”

    Update: Senate Republican leaders have decided to punt, at least until later this summer, because they can’t corral the requisite number of votes (50 plus Pence) to pass the bill and screw the citizenry. This is what passes for good news these days. But we’ll take it.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal