Opinion

Why the Republican health-care bill keeps coming back from the dead

What foul magic is this?

Taking my usual morning walk yesterday I could not help but notice that something was wrong with the dogs across the street. For a full five minutes they stood in my neighbors' yard barking loudly as if gripped by some hideous fear. I think they must have just been reading the news.

No man-made device can identify the odor associated with putrefaction, but dogs can. The new Republican health-care bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is not a living thing. It is an unholy monstrosity, a blasphemous abomination, a reeking corpse animated by the dark magicians of the GOP for unspeakable purposes.

The present bill is, for all practical purposes, the same as the one introduced by Graham and Cassidy last week that basically failed with the defection of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), who joined confirmed "no" vote Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and likely "no" votes Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in opposing what will almost certainly be the final serious Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It still calls for enormous cuts to the expansion of Medicaid and allows states via a so-called block-grant scheme to decide many things for themselves — whether, for example, such pre-existing "conditions" as pregnancy will be afforded protection from discrimination. The only substantial difference is that the new legislation also includes substantial money for health-care services in a handful of states — namely, Arizona, Alaska, Maine, and Kentucky.

The bill's sponsors have made no attempt to disguise the essentially crass nature of the deal they are offering. "If there's a billion more going to Maine … that's a heck of a lot," Cassidy told The Washington Post on Monday. "It's not for Susan, it's for the Mainers. But she cares so passionately about those Mainers, I'm hoping those extra dollars going to her state … would make a difference to her." Apparently it didn't, as she confirmed her opposition to the bill on Monday night, calling it "deeply flawed."

President Trump, perhaps the only person less interested in the details of ObamaCare repeal legislation than Graham and Cassidy, also isn't trying to hide the dirty deal on offer, tweeting, "Alaska, Arizona, Maine, and Kentucky are big winners in the health-care proposal. Seven years of repeal and replace and some senators not there." It is amusing to think that Principled Conservatism ends this way, in straightforward unambiguous bribery.

So, far from winning over McCain and company, the second iteration of Graham-Cassidy is likely to repulse conservative hardliners who will object to the additional funding for the four states represented by the hold-outs. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has already indicated that he is skeptical of the new bill. This stands to reason. If the point of repealing and replacing ObamaCare is that it is necessary to get government out of health care, why should you allocate these additional funds? Why deprive the good people of Maine and Alaska of glorious freedom, when it is obvious that they would be better off without the money? The whole thing stinks of desperation and decay. Far be it from me to compare esteemed members of the world's greatest deliberative body to hounds or labradoodles, but I do think that Cruz has at least one admirably canine quality: He can sniff out the difference between a real live bill and this thing.

Which brings us back to necromancy. The fact that ObamaCare is here to stay until the inevitable arrival of single-payer health care does not mean that it will be universally loved. It is no longer possible to imagine a world in which there is not, in some dark untrodden region, a group of two or three superstitious creatures who whisper the four loathed syllables and shake their fists; five hundred years from now in the ruins of a strip mall in Topeka or the ashes of a Baton Rouge Chick-fil-A, missionaries will shake their heads fondly at the quaint folk beliefs of the indigenous populations, among them the all-consuming dread inspired by "Ah-bama Cair," the most repulsive of their many fetish-gods.

Because Graham-Cassidy is already dead, it cannot really die.

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