Now that Republicans hold a majority in the Senate and House of Representatives, they say they’ll finally make good on their six-year threats to repeal Obamacare. If a repeal does happen, some Democrats are saying that they’ll work with the GOP to craft a suitable replacement.
Future Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y. expressed the party’s hardline stance when he said, “The odds, after they repeal without any replacement, of us sitting at the table to do something that will chop one arm off instead of two is very small.” But not every Democrat’s Senate seat is as secure as Schumer’s.
There are 25 Democratic Senators up for reelection in 2018, and 10 of them are in states that Donald Trump won in the presidential election. Republicans are betting that those at-risk Senators will work with them on an Obamacare replacement so as to make it an issue during their reelection campaigns. Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who will be coordinating the GOP’s Senate campaigns in 2018, told Politico, “There are seven senators on the Democratic side that will have a political reason to work with us,” and the party is on the lookout for that eighth vote.
Politico spoke with “more than a half-dozen Democratic senators spanning the party’s ideological spectrum,” and some are open to cooperating with Republicans on new health insurance reform.
Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent who is up for reelection in 2018, said, “If they want to change things around the edges, fix some of the things we agree ought to be fixed and call it Trumpcare, that’s OK. Let’s get people covered.” Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota said, “Anything’s possible. We’ve got to get to a spot here in Washington, D.C., where we respond to peoples’ concerns. There are things that we could do that will improve access to health care and hopefully lower cost.” Heitkamp will be up for reelection in a state that voted 63 percent for Trump. Other Democrats who expressed willingness to work with Republicans include Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Chris Coons of Delaware and even the Minority Whip, Dick Durbin of Illinois.
But just because they’re willing to work with Republicans doesn’t mean the senators are optimistic about the GOP’s ability to put forward an acceptable healthcare plan. Senator Coons said of the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace, “We don’t know yet if they’re serious.” Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri expressed similar hesitation about the Republican plan. “For six years, I’ve looked [for Republican replacement plans] in closets, I’ve looked in committee rooms, I’ve looked under desks,” she said. “They’ve had six frickin’ years to figure it out.”
Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the third-ranked Democrat in the Senate, said, “I have not heard one plausible way to do this. I do not believe they’re going to be able to put something [together] that will literally tell millions of people in this country: ‘You’re going to be OK.’” Politico also quotes a “senior Democratic official” who said, “I don’t see a way to the sweet spot that gets them eight Democrats they need and keeps all 52 Republicans. The political calculation changes once we’re in post-repeal world.”
Though there are those senators expressing a willingness to work on an Obamacare replacement, the Democratic stance right now is to not help the Republicans if they do pull the trigger on a repeal, which itself has become a tricky proposition as Obamacare has become increasingly popular since it was enacted in 2010.