Monday, March 27, 2017

Meehan on the health care vote

For seven years Pat Meehan voted consistently to overturn the signature legislation of President Obama, joining his Republican brethren in trying to roll back what they ridiculed as 'Obamacare.'

Of course, there was a certain sense of comfort in those actions.

They knew it was a hollow act. They knew that with the president waiting with his veto that the votes didn't really mean anything. In other words, they knew no one was going to lose the benefits provided by the ACA.

The, of course, all hell broke loose and Donald Trump stunned the political world by first knocking off a big field of Republican hopefuls to capture the party's nomination, then delivering still one more stunner by snagging the Electoral College vote to defeat Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote.

He did so in large part on the promise that Job One would be repeal and replace Obamacare.

With Trump now in holding the reins of power, it fell to Republicans to make good on those promises, to actually do what they had been bragging for months they would do - repeal and replace Obamacare.

As it turns out, after seven years, Republicans still didn't have a plan.

President Trump even went so far as to say "now one knew how complicated" health care actually was? Really?

House Speaker Paul Ryan quickly put together what was referred to as the American Health Care Act.

Congress debated the ACA for more than a year. Now they wanted a vote on the Republican plan in a matter of a couple of weeks.

Once people got a look at it, they found a lot not to like.

Even some Republicans were taken aback.

It turns out some of Obamacare's harshest critics were more against "Obama" than "Care."

Meehan, R-7, of Chddds Ford, suddenly had a target on his back. His district office was the site of weekly protests by those who opposed the repeal of the ACA, and passionately opposed the GOP plan.

Suddenly, a lot of Republicans started softening their tone. Even Meehan, who voted again and again to ax Obamacare, coined a new term, "rescue and repair," as opposed to "repeal and replace."

Still, he voted in favor of the plan as a way to move it forward out of the House Ways and Means Committee.

But as Trump and Republican leaders scheduled a vote on Thursday, Meehan clearly was having misgivings.

Thursday's vote got delayed. Late Thursday Trump issued an ultimatum - he wanted an up or down vote regardless of the outcome.

Despite furious arm-twisting by the president, they still didn't have the votes. The bill failed not just because it would not get a single Dem vote; it was conservative Republicans and a few others who killed the American Health Care Act.

And Meehan? He did the politically astute thing.

Late Wednesday he said he was still undecided, still going over the measure and still talking to constituents.

You could almost hear the sigh of relief from Meehan in Washington all the way back here in the 7th District when Trump and Ryan pulled the bill Friday afternoon.

Meehan never had to show his hand.

Of course, after the bill was pulled, Meehan issued a statement saying he had serious problems with the legislation. Here's what he said.

"Obamacare has left too many Pennsylvanians behind, and middle class families face skyrocketing premiums and less access to the doctors they trust.

“I’ve long said we need to repeal it and replace it with real reforms that address the cost of care and make quality coverage more affordable. I’ve been supportive of moving this process forward and crafting legislation that achieves these goals.

“The bill took important steps to dismantle Obamacare’s maze of taxes and mandates, and it also preserved protections for people with pre-existing conditions – a top priority of mine throughout this debate."

The the congressman gets to the good part.

“But I also expressed serious concerns about just what this bill would have meant for Pennsylvania," Meehan said. "I had hoped that as the bill worked its way through the House, we’d be able to improve it and ensure we’re lowering costs for patients.

“This legislation didn’t go far enough to bring down the cost of care or make essential coverage more affordable. Ultimately, this bill was not a satisfactory repeal of Obamacare, nor an adequate replacement.

“This issue isn’t going away. With more time and more feedback from members and their constituents, I hope we’ll be able to continue the repeal-and-replace process, both through regulatory reforms by the administration and through legislation that reflects the priorities we’ve set. It’s more important we get this done right than get it done fast."

The perfect political position, knowing full well once again he would not have to actually cast a vote, which would have let him vulnerable to an attack from side or the other.

There's just one thing I wish he had done.

I wish he had made that same statement Thursday, before the bill was pulled.

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