As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports:
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado joined with most of his fellow Republicans early Friday in a failed attempt to pass a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act that even some GOP lawmakers admitted was a strategy only meant to open negotiations with the House.
Three Republicans joined with every Democrat, including Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, to reject the measure, which would have unwound a handful of the ACA’s taxes and levies, including a fine on most Americans who don’t buy health insurance…
Senate Republicans have been unable to come to agreement on how they want to dismantle the ACA — also known as Obamacare — and the overnight vote was a last-ditch effort to keep momentum on their seven-year pledge to reverse President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raged impotently at Democrats after the bill died, Politico:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed “regret” and “disappointment” immediately after the GOP failed to pass a minimalist Obamacare repeal bill early Friday, blaming congressional Democrats for not engaging “in a serious way” in the efforts to remedy the health care law…
Despite his party’s inability to come together to pass through the legislation, McConnell pinned much of the fault on Senate Democrats.
“Our friends on the other side decided early on they didn’t want to engage with us in a serious way, a serious way to help those suffering under Obamacare,” McConnell said.
There has been no statement yet this morning from Sen. Cory Gardner. Last night’s defeat of the last-ditch “skinny repeal” option, meant to move the process forward to conference with the House to produce a wholly undetermined less “skinny” version, is significantly more calamitous for Republicans than their previous failures on this defining issue that has dominated American politics for the last seven years. Before arriving at last night’s ultimate failure, Senate Republicans had floated several different versions of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, all of which failed. The Congressional Budget Office’s damning estimates of each new iteration of the bill made it increasingly clear that no proposal acceptable to the right wing would pass the gauntlet of politically vulnerable GOP Senators who could not allow such destruction to play out in their own states.
But not Cory Gardner.
Representing a state that President Donald Trump did not carry in 2016, a state that expanded Medicaid and has been one of the most successful at implementing the Affordable Care Act, Gardner was in a difficult position after the GOP’s sweeping victory that year made long-cherished goals like repealing Obamacare possible. Gardner in particular made attacks on the ACA central to his political campaigns, often with little factual basis. Now that Gardner found himself in a position to keep that long-sought promise, things started to get a little, well, hairy.
At first, Gardner tried to ride the fence. He sent a letter with a few other Senators earlier this year calling for better protections for Medicaid patients who would be affected by ACA repeal. He talked in interviews about the importance of having a replacement plan ready to go concurrent with any vote to repeal. And he professed to care about the people protesting in ever greater numbers outside his offices, claiming he was part of a select “working group” drafting the legislation.
But when it finally came time to start voting, two things became clear: first that Gardner was not in any kind of control over the final shape of any proposed legislation, and second that Gardner was going to vote yes regardless of the promises he made before. In rapid succession, Gardner voted to hurt the Medicaid patients he wanted to protect, repeal the ACA with no replacement, and then last night in favor of a bill the CBO estimated would hike premiums by 20%–breaking what everyone thought was Gardner’s foremost promise to “bring down the cost of care.”
We can’t say exactly what Gardner thought would be the outcome when he went into this process, but the failure to pass anything while simultaneously breaking every promise he made about what he would and would not support is absolutely devastating to Gardner’s credibility. Everything Gardner said he valued in this debate turned out not to be true. When the proverbial chips were down, Gardner abandoned his stated principles, and voted for legislation that would have all the negative effects he claimed he wanted to spare Coloradans. It’s possible that as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), he felt obligated to do so to protect his 2018 charges from backlash.
But if anything, that just makes it worse. Gardner’s true loyalties, which are not to Colorado, stand revealed.