The past few days leading up to the formal release yesterday of the U.S. Senate’s so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, the latest version of long-sought legislation to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health care overhaul the Affordable Care Act, have been a major disaster politically both for the Republican Party generally and the highest-ranking Republican in Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner.
Gardner was once considered one of the prime movers in a select panel of Republican Senators drafting that chamber’s version of an Obamacare repeal after the House’s much-celebrated bill was declared DOA owing to its…well, for lack of a better term, its casualty count. The failure of Republicans to craft legislation to repeal Obamacare without doing tremendous harm to the millions who have directly benefitted from the law is a growing political nightmare for Gardner, who campaigned heavily on the whole slate of factually-dubious arguments against Obamacare that were popular during the Tea Party movement of 2009-2010.
Yesterday, as Denver7’s Blair Miller reports, the bad news continued to rain down on Gardner:
Gardner told Denver7 Wednesday he hadn’t seen a text version of the bill despite being one of a handful of Republicans working in small groups to craft the bill. Senate Republicans wrote their own bill after the House of Representatives passed its version, the American Health Care Act, in early May…
Gardner slammed those who he said were jumping to conclusions about the bill without fully analyzing it.
“It’s frustrating that instead of actually reviewing the legislative text some have decided to immediately oppose the bill before it was even introduced,” Gardner told Denver7 in a statement. “This deserves serious debate, not knee-jerk reaction.” [Pols emphasis]
First of all, after the first six months of Donald Trump’s presidency have been dominated by debate over the repeal of Obamacare, it’s absurd to claim that any reaction to this latest bill is “knee-jerk.” Everyone following this debate understands what Republicans are working toward here, and the overwhelming public opposition to basically every part of this repeal process is not going to be quelled by the relatively minor differences from one bill to another.
Somewhere in the midst of yesterday’s busy news cycle, it appears Team Gardner realized that “knee-jerk reaction” statement was itself not very well thought out. We quoted yesterday from a Denver Post story by reporter Mark Matthews, which frankly questioned Gardner’s complaints in the context of his purported leadership role in the drafting effort. Sometime yesterday afternoon, the story we quoted from was completely removed from the Denver Post’s website, and replaced with a new story at the same URL that contains none of the previous story’s context. Gardner’s “knee-jerk reaction” quote is nowhere to be found in the new story, in which Gardner is now quoted as wanting to slow down the process–and implying without any real confirmation from Gardner that he might oppose the bill he allegedly helped create.
What happened here, you ask? It’s pretty obvious, really, and we want to be clear that we’re not trying to beat up Matthews in calling this out. In the business of politics and political journalism in particular, a common tactic is known as “working the refs”–aggressively either courting or lambasting journalists as needed to cast a story in the most favorable frame possible. Matthews’ original version, which we have reprinted in its entirety after the jump for educational purposes, clearly did not please Gardner or his aides, and they took action to get it replaced.
Prevailing upon a reporter to completely rewrite a critical story into a much less critical one, especially after thousands of people saw the original, to us demonstrates clearly how nervous Gardner and his team is over this legislation. Gardner’s swiftly-eroding approval in his home state is most certainly weighing heavily on his mind, even with re-election still a few years away. As the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Gardner can also see the damage this is doing to candidates he has to get re-elected next year. This is not just a needle has has to thread for himself, but for his whole party. We’ll never know if Team Gardner was nice to Matthews about it, but to the news-consuming public, that’s not what matters.
The only thing that matters is what they read in the paper today. The original story in question follows.