Republicans' 217-213 passage of the American Health Care Act on Thursday guarantees Democrats will have at least one major on-the-record vote to exploit in the next elections. Although it's the first of potentially many explosive votes, House Republicans' willingness to spend political capital on a proposal that garnered the support of just 17 percent of the public in a March Quinnipiac poll is consistent with past scenarios that have generated a midterm wave.
More specifically, the Cook Report lists 20 Republican seats whose chances of flipping significantly went up:
Solid to likely is not great but likely to lean is very bad. Moving to a toss up is disastrous. Republicans control 238 seats in the House and they can only afford to lose 24 of those and still retain control. Having 20 of their seats shift left is the kind of thing that makes political consultants start drinking heavily. And not just Bud Light.
The Cook Report does say out that 18 months is a very long time in politics and a lot can happen in between now and November 2018 but it's worth noting that this swing is before the public really knows what's in this bill. Republicans made sure to hide it as long as possible and ram it through as quickly as possible to avoid scrutiny. Of course, now that it's passed, we get to see it and every single scummy thing they slipped in there will be generating screaming headlines about age taxes, cancer patients and pregnant women being thrown under the bus, massive premium hikes, millions losing insurance, children losing Medicaid, etc. etc. And just wait until the CBO score comes in.
Unlike the hysteria the GOP manufactured over Obamacare, every word will be true and Republicans will be forced to answer for it. When they fail to do so or try to lie about it, expect that list of leftward moving districts to grow.
And just to make things a little worse for Republicans, The Cook Report helpfully points out that as the incumbents facing fresh faces, Republicans won't be able to use their usual smear tactics:
Not only did dozens of Republicans in marginal districts just hitch their names to an unpopular piece of legislation, Democrats just received another valuable candidate recruitment tool. In fact, Democrats aren't so much recruiting candidates as they are overwhelmed by a deluge of eager newcomers, including doctors and veterans in traditionally red seats who have no political record for the GOP to attack - almost a mirror image of 2010.
Republicans are counting on the electorate's notoriously short attention span to get them past this rather large bump but healthcare isn't a "one and done" type of thing. Even if the Senate Republicans pass it (and that's a very big "if"), people will notice very quickly how their healthcare has changed as premiums skyrocket and essential services get cut. Remember how you didn't have to pay for your yearly well visit? That will be $20-$50 now, please.
People tend to remember who took money out of their pocket and there's literally no one else to blame but Republicans.
The best case scenario is that the Senate Republicans sabotage the bill so the House will be forced to kill it and it all blows over before the midterms. Not a great plan but it might be the only way Republicans in both chambers keep their majorities. The only problem with that is that the ACA repeal is the only way for Paul Ryan to fulfill his lifelong dream of causing death and misery among the poor in order to reward the rich. He'll keep beating that dead horse until he's dragged from the Speaker's podium, screaming his love and eternal devotion to Ayn Rand.
If it sounds insane that any other politician would keep jumping off the same cliff of stripping millions of their healthcare in order to coddle millionaires and billionaires, welcome to the modern Republican Party.
There are 549 days left to the 2018 elections.
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