WASHINGTON — This past Thursday and Friday were good days for our nation: the GOP, at least for now, gave up on destroying ObamaCare. And the leadership of the Democratic Party announced it will do everything possible to make sure right winger Neil Gorsuch does not get on the Supreme Court.
The win should bolster the determination of all those in the Resistance movement.
Even New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who as the chair of the House Appropriations Committee is the third most powerful Republican, could not withstand the protesters that dogged his every move for the last few months, hunting him down even when he made out-of-state appearances like the one he made at a GOP retreat in Philadelphia. Frelinghuysen announced, just before the scheduled vote on the Republican healthcare bill, that he was switching his vote to “no” because it would kick too many of his own constituents off of health care.
Strengthened determination will still be necessary to preserve the healthcare insurance that now covers some 30 million Americans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because although the leaders of the GOP-captured legislative branch say they will now move on to other things, according to the Washington Post, there is a “likelihood” that Donald Trump and his Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will engage in “administrative sabotage” of the Act’s provisions.
Trump has already signed an executive order that undermines federal enrollment efforts and the individual mandate that holds the ACA system together.
Like a spoiled child, Trump, right after his big loss Friday, said from the Oval Office that “now the Democrats own Obamacare” and boasted that he will watch as it “first implodes and then explodes.” His remarks were a shocking display of his callousness and inability to empathize with the millions who feared his plan would endanger their very lives and who depend on Obamacare to maintain their health. His remarks, made as they were in the Oval Office, were in stark contrast to remarks made by previous presidents in that same office. Presidents spoke from the Oval Office to mobilize the nation in times of crisis, perhaps most notably Franklin Roosevelt who called the nation to arms against the worldwide fascist threat.
Strengthened determination by the Resistance will also be necessary to counter the Trumpites’ response to the Democrats’ taking strong action against Gorsuch.
The Democratic Party’s announcement, according to the Washington Post was a result of “The Democrats’ liberal base … pressuring senators to block Trump’s nominees across the government.” In fact, thousands of people had demonstrated in front of the apartment of the Democratic Party’s titular head, Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer, demanding, in effect, that the Democratic Party join and help lead the Resistance.
They were echoing what Senator Elizabeth Warren has been saying: “We are not the minority party. We are the opposition party. … We will resist every single step toward the takeover of our government by billionaires, bankers and bigots.”
Furthermore, the fact that a Fox News poll recently showed that with a 61 percent approval rating, Bernie Sanders is by far the most popular politician in America, is evidence that Americans want more activist-politicians.
To his credit, Schumer is becoming just that.
On national television over the weekend he told reporters that he welcomed the mas demonstrations against the Trump agenda and he noted that he got his start in politics as a young activist in the fight against the war in Vietnam.
In the face of the Trumpites’ intransigence, he has led protest after protest in the Senate and is now calling for Democratic senators to create a parliamentary situation in which Gorsuch must receive 60 votes to be confirmed.
Schumer has pointed out that all of President Obama’s nominees for various positions were confirmed with no less than 60 votes.
However, in order to impose the 60-vote requirement today, the Democrats will have to begin a filibuster to delay the vote on Gorsuch. It takes 60 votes to end a filibuster, so, in effect, it would take 60 votes to confirm Gorsuch. There are only 52 Republicans in the Senate and getting eight Democrats to vote with them would probably be impossible.
Here’s the danger: similar to Trump having the power to unilaterally undermine Obamacare, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky., could gain the power to unilaterally change Senate rules so that it would only take a simple majority to block a filibuster.
If he did this, the rules of the Senate would be changed for all future votes, meaning that the Democrats would no longer have any leverage to block any measures introduced by the Republican majority.
This, in turn, would make a broad-based, deeply rooted Resistance movement even more important than ever because it would become absolutely necessary for progressives to win seats in the 2018 elections and beyond.
However, the up side of attempting a filibuster on the Gorsuch nomination is that Republicans might be more willing to negotiate with the Democrats on a replacement for Gorsuch or about any future Supreme Court nominees chosen by Trump. This could be important, because Justices Kennedy and Ginsberg have indicated they might retire.
Healthcare silver lining
There is also an upside to the nation’s current situation regarding healthcare. Although Trump and Price might try to undermine Obamacare protections, there is a likelihood that this might backfire on them. There is evidence that glitches in Obamacare might increase the demand among Americans for a single-payer plan, or for a step toward this.
A poll by AOL News during the ACA replacement debate shows that given a choice between Obamacare and the plan proposed by Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, about 60 percent of Americans wanted to keep Obamacare.
According to the polls, Americans believe that “the federal government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage.”
The Trump/Ryan proposal was not really a healthcare reform bill. It was a rob- from-the-poor-give-to-the-rich-plan. Some 24 million people would have lost Medicaid and the money saved would have been given to the rich in the form of tax cuts.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Trump/Ryan plan would have caused premiums to rise more than sevenfold in 2026 for 64-year-olds making $26,500 a year.
The American people would have none of that and they forcefully told this to their representatives and senators.
And for the most part, insurance companies themselves were not enthusiastic about making changes to the ACA system of healthcare. They had cut their deal with the Obama Administration years ago: they would cover pre-existing conditions if people were required by law to buy insurance.
Since passage of the ACA, most insurers were satisfied with their profits. Some were not and either dropped out or raised their rates. The relatively small tea party crowd in the House used this fact to try to eliminate the requirement that insurance companies cover chronic illnesses.
No one, not even Ryan and Trump dared to take that to the American people.
But Ryan and Trump used the fact that some rates had gone up as the basis of their pitch to sell their plan.
The American people wouldn’t buy it.
Moreover, the progressives in the House and Senate have a ready solution to rising rates: the public option that had been proposed as part of the ACA in the first place.
Under this proposal, the federal government would set up a health insurance agency that would compete with other private health insurance companies. Presumably, this competition would keep rates low.
It’s not the same as publicly funded health care, but it’s a step in the right direction.
If the Resistance movement continues to grow and take root across this nation, taking that step, or something even more progressive, will become almost inevitable.