Republicans do not really plan to put in place a new health system if the courts cancel the Affordable Care Act before the 2020 elections. But many of them are wishing to end, even if it means plunging the GOP in a debate that divides the party and leaves it politically vulnerable.
After a decade of trying to dump Obamacare, Republicans could finally get their wish through a lawsuit backed by the Trump administration. Its success would cause chaos not only in the insurance markets but on Capitol Hill. And Republican senators largely like it – even if they do not know what will follow.
History continues below
"I'm ready for this to succeed," said Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). "I would love to come back and treat again with health care."
"Do I hope the trial will succeed? That's what I do, "said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). "What I want is for us to know where we are going if it succeeds, because it looks more and more like it could be."
Even Republicans who are not known for their hard line are eager for a forcing mechanism to attack in Obamacare.
"I have a plan that I would love to see Congress resume and move forward," added Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on a proposal to protect elements of the law. "The need is the mother of acceptance. I hope that we will reach this need and this would propel my proposal to benefit from considerable support. "
Cramer and Romney said the GOP talks were underway to find out how to intervene if the law came to a halt after a US court of appeal said last week that it could kill all or nothing. part of the law, although the Supreme Court has the last word. Democrats and Republicans are also working on a modest set of bills designed to reduce health care costs.
But when it comes to major changes in Obamacare, the parties do not argue.
Democratic leaders have no intention of working with the GOP because they want the law on affordable care to survive. And there is no reason to think that Senate Republicans could unite to replace the law after previously failing to do so.
"If that were successful, I would be very concerned," said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) about the trial. "I do not think there is a plan in place to take care of the people who used the scholarships to buy their insurance or who were covered by the Medicaid extension. I hope the court will not overturn it. "
Democrats are ready to hit Republicans if the law is abolished because of the GOP's lawsuit. Democrats took over the House last year largely because of their interest in health care.
The leader of the Senate minority, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Called the GOP's position of "abrogation without replacement".
"All the plans the Republicans have put forward have failed to maintain the protections offered by the current law," he said. "It's pretty simple: if you want to maintain protections for people with pre-existing conditions, you do not require them to be removed."
Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), A close ally of Schumer, added, "They'd better do something. Otherwise, everything is on them. It's all about Mitch McConnell. "
Republicans can bet that the Democrats would begin negotiations to protect the popular provisions of Obamacare and forge somehow a new compromise on the law on health care, all in the heat of the presidential campaign. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Said that Congress would immediately act on pre-existing conditions if the courts annulled this part of the law.
But it is also possible that the law simply collapses and that Congress plays a game of reproach for months as millions of Americans struggle to cope with the consequences. Republican efforts to create a new law have been in vain in 2017, and Democrats are not exactly unanimous on the opportunity to protect Obamacare or assume a more important role for the government, as with "Medicare for All ".
It's difficult, if not impossible, to see how the parties could compromise in a year. McConnell quickly dispelled President Donald Trump's words to resume his efforts to replace the law earlier this year. In May, he said: "It is not possible" to reconcile the priorities of the GOP and President Nancy Pelosi on a major replacement bill.
During interviews, several Senate Republicans insisted that Congress could organize it. But veterans of health wars are not so sure.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who killed the attempt to repeal the GOP with Collins and the late Senator John McCain, drily observed efforts to replace Obamacare: "You know how much I liked this fight. "
Senator Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.), who voted with her party in 2017 on the so-called "lean repeal", said she was also eager to avoid another big debate. scale on health care.
"I can not say that I hope it will succeed," she said of the trial. "I think the strategy I adopted in my mind is repair. Fix what we have. She then swung into a GOP line that will be heard for months: "You know, you see the Democratic candidates for the presidency. They want to delete it, their own creation. "
The attention of Democrats to go beyond Obamacare – either through Medicare for All, or through proposals to let people join Medicare – could further complicate Congress efforts to respond to a possible Supreme Court ruling overturning Obamacare, a decision that could be made next year if the court of appeal abolishes the law in the coming months.
The lawsuit backed by GOP attorneys general, the Trump administration and many GOP lawmakers argues that the Affordable Care Act should collapse now that Congress has defined its individual mandate in a tax law Republican. In an earlier decision of the Supreme Court, the warrant was used to enforce the law.
Collins stated that she considered the case to be clear: the fact that Congress did not repeal the entire act, either in a stand-alone bill or in tax legislation, proves that legislators are focused solely on the mandate defined in the draft law on taxes.
But many of her colleagues hope she is wrong.
For Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), The collapse of Obamacare in court "would be a relief."
"I anticipate the court would give Congress some time to act in such a way as to work effectively," Johnson said. "We're not going to turn on the switch right now, but there's no harm in having a deadline."
However, Republicans also admit that the trial could be politically detrimental, not only to Trump, but to the majority of their senators.
Republicans fight hard to defend their 53- to 47-year-old majority, and polls show Democrats have the pinnacle of health care as part of GOP efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act .
"I only fear the political consequences of" fake democratic attacks, said Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Who supports efforts to protect pre-existing conditions.
He said he feared that the Democrats would not join forces to strengthen these protections "for technical reasons so that we can continue to sue us". it will be their own fault.
"The fact that people are worried about losing the Affordable Care Act reflects the fact that the US Congress has not done its job," said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Who is "ready "for the trial to succeed. Obamacare "has not improved their lives, but people are worried that, if it's serious, if we do not have it, we have nothing."