Just out of its 108th annual convention in Baltimore, the NAACP hailed what it described as a “victory” after the U. S. Senate failed to pass a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) July 27. The organization then urged protection of health care “by any means necessary.”
“Affordable healthcare is a civil right that must be protected by any means necessary–and last night, 51 Senators did exactly that. We applaud the leaders who stood strong in the face of this ‘skinny repeal’ and refused to effectively sign death warrants on 16 million Americans, if not more,” said newly-elected interim NAACP president/CEO Derrick Johnson in a statement.
“Though we celebrate this victory, we must remember that our healthcare system is still at risk of being hijacked and turned into a ‘wealth care’ system for the rich tomorrow. Many in Washington would still have the most vulnerable among us–namely children, the elderly, the disenfranchised–pushed to the margins of our society, unable to afford life-saving treatments, while padding the pockets of the one-percent.”
In a dramatic moment, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), just back from surgery for brain cancer, rendered the deciding vote. He paused before giving a thumbs down simultaneously with an emphatic “No.” He was joined by joined by two other Republicans, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) The final vote was 49 to 51, including 48 Democrats also voting no, effectively killing the repeal bill.
The loss of the repeal bill represents a huge failure for Republicans who have for eight years, promised to repeal the law and eventually or immediately replace it with their own. At least 60 Congressional maneuvers have failed to end the ACA. Even the U. S. Supreme Court has upheld it.
Last week’s vote also represented a major loss for the Trump Administration. The president had pressured–even threatened—Republicans to pass the bill. But, so far, no version of a proposed Republican legislation has successfully made it to Oval Office for signature.
Among other complaints, Republicans and other conservatives claim one of their key reasons they oppose the ACA is that the bill interferes with the private relationship between doctors and patients–representing the “big government” intrusion that they philosophically loathe. Democrats admit the plan is not perfect. But the undercurrent is that the ACA was the hallmark victory of President Barack Obama’s eight-year tenure. The fact that Obama signed the bill into law amidst great Republican opposition March 23, 2010 appears to be the dominant reason for the Republican push to repeal it rather than fix parts of the ACA that needs repairing.
The McCain vote came on the heels of an eloquent speech he made days earlier in which he appealed to his fellow Republicans to return to the days of old—making deals across party lines for the good of the nation.
“We’re getting nothing done,” McCain said. “Our deliberations today—not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities–authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role–are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.
He continued, “Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline–either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have.”
The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ would have “ended the ACA’s individual and employer mandates. This would have provided states with greater flexibility to allow insurance that is not ACA-compliant,” Johnson pointed out in the statement, which was released the day after the failed vote. “We hope that last night’s actions will serve as a reminder that we will not allow our nation to be transformed into a land where democracy remains a reality for the rich, but just theory for the poor, working class and communities of color. Here at the NAACP, we commit to continuing to educate, agitate, litigate and participate until every American can rest easy at night, knowing that they and their loves ones will be able to receive quality, affordable healthcare.”