Opinion

The astounding procedural abuses of the Republican Congress

Republicans have lost all right to participate in government the next time they're in the minority

The method by which the Republican Party is attempting to pass their TrumpCare bill is at least as notable as its monstrous contents. Many changes have been made to the bill since its last version went down in flames (due to rulings from the Senate parliamentarian that certain stipulations were out of order), and so Republicans went into a scheduled vote Tuesday without having any idea what was being voted on. There is no final text of a bill, no hearings of any kind, and, of course, no Congressional Budget Office score.

And yet on Tuesday, Senate Republicans approved by the narrowest of margins the motion to proceed to a debate on this mystery bill. Tens of millions of Americans' health insurance (and hundreds of thousands of lives) now hang in the balance.

But one thing is certain. Someday soon Democrats will get another bite at the health-care apple. Pressure to pass Medicare for all, or something approximating it, will be intense. When that debate happens, Republicans will have forfeited the right to any input, attention, or political respect of any kind.

Now, it will not be necessary to replicate the level of duplicity and concealment that Republicans have done with TrumpCare, for the simple reason that Medicare for all (or something similar) would be broadly popular and successful. They are hiding the ball because TrumpCare is about as popular as smallpox, and the Republican leadership knows it. ObamaCare, by contrast, was unpopular for years, but a significant proportion of people who disliked it — including some Trump voters — did so because it didn't go far enough.

Everyone who isn't either stinking rich or brain-poisoned by right-wing propaganda wants cheaper, better insurance, not a return to the lousy previous status quo. (In particular, many people just above the income cutoff for the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion were understandably jealous of those poor enough to qualify.) So when the vicious cuts in TrumpCare became widely known, ObamaCare's popularity jumped up by comparison — better that than the alternative.

So Democrats have no reason to fear passing a bill through regular order, with the usual hearings, markups, and CBO scores. And they should restore traditional constitutional democracy, where both experts and the citizenry get a chance to weigh in — most importantly, allowing time for CBO analysis so people can know what is being voted on. By definition, of course, the opposition party would then get time to participate in floor debate.

But Republicans have completely obliterated any reason for Democrats — or anyone else — to take seriously any words that come out of their lying mouths. ObamaCare was passed after over a year of debate, with a slew of committee hearings, markups, and careful — indeed, rather neurotic — attention to CBO scores. Centrist Democrats, partly fueled by President Obama's desperate desire for bipartisanship, courted Republican senators with a fervent intensity. (For their trouble they were strung out for months and got nothing.)

Despite all that, Republicans yowled like trodden-on cats that Democrats were abusing the Constitution, congressional precedent, and freedom itself to ram the bill through. To pick one of hundreds of examples, eight months before the final bill was passed, Paul Ryan earnestly whined that the process was "not good democracy."

Now not only have Republicans gone far above their ridiculous caricature of Democratic behavior, they're trampling down norms of deliberative democracy in a totally unprecedented fashion.

Whether all this was conscious deception or Republicans being so poisoned by right-wing agitprop that they can no longer recognize reality doesn't really matter. The upshot is that the Republican Party is absolutely, fundamentally untrustworthy. They deserve nothing but contempt in any future policy debate of any kind.

It would be only right and proper for the Medicare for All Act of 2021 to be queued up prior to the new Congress taking power, fully costed out and ready for scoring. It would be given about two months for full congressional procedure, with the entire Democratic caucus attending every Republican speech with their backs turned from start to finish. After every scruple was attended to (though Senate Democrats would probably have to vote to abolish the filibuster), it would be passed on a party-line vote. Perhaps they could celebrate by obsequiously hand-delivering the new Medicare enrollment cards to every Republican member of Congress.

That's probably wishful thinking, given today's Democratic Party. But if they had an ounce of self-respect, that's what they would do.

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