By CLARENCE MCKEE
Watching U.S. Senate Republicans deal with healthcare reform, you would think they were in clown college and not members of a lawmaking body.
After promising constituents for seven years that they would repeal and replace Obamacare, they have thus far reneged — betraying the public trust.
One thing you can say about the Democrats, they stick together like a herd of sheep. They follow their shepherds wherever they may lead. Republicans on the other hand — in too many cases — are like a herd of cats to whom party discipline and unity means nothing.
The result, if you were in a fire fight and needed air-support, you sure couldn’t count on this batch of Senate Republicans to come to the rescue. In fact, they would probably run the other way!
Although I can respect conservatives such as Rand Paul, R-Ky., who considered the Senate proposal “Obamacare Lite” a betrayal of Republican principles by “bailing out” insurance companies, I don’t have the same respect for Republican “moderates” who have apparently come to like Obamacare’s federal goodies.
Some would call them “RINOS”—Republicans In Name Only. I prefer to label them “Democrat-lites.”
At the first Democratic, media and leftwing artillery barrage saying the Senate proposal represented “tax cuts for the rich” and will kill thousands, these “Democrat-lites” turned tail, running for liberal cover. They were played like a violin by Democrats and the media, and danced to their tune.
Apparently, these Democrat-lites have become addicted to their own political opioid: the expansion of the Medicaid entitlement beyond caring for the poor and those unable to do for themselves to include able-bodied adults.
Until the president called all Senate Republicans to the White House for lunch, any hopes to get something done were dashed when three Democrat-lites — Sens. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, RAlaska — said they would not even support an effort to pass a bill that would repeal Obamacare now and work on a replacement over the next two years.
The main problem is that both the Democrat-lites and conservatives, by continuing their opposition to the Senate bill — which would impose annual caps on Medicaid spending and end what has been an open-ended entitlement — ruin any chance for slowing the growth of this massive entitlement.
Since the beginning of the healthcare debate, Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate have allowed Democrats to control the narrative and message — GOP proposals were going to bring doom and gloom, kill thousands of people and be a gift for the rich.
Democrats and their leftist supporters organized protests and scored unanswered media points one after the other while Republicans were virtually silent, offered no counter attacks, and put up little defense of their own bill. As usual, at the first sign of Democratic and media attacks, Democrat-lites ran for the hills.
In fact, we heard more positive points about the Senate bill in five minutes from the president during the lunch with the senators than we have heard from Senate Republicans in the past five weeks.
Republicans have been outgunned and out messaged by Democrats. The GOP has lacked fortitude, vision, message, commitment, stamina, and political savvy. Democrats at least show that they believe in and are willing to fight for something.
So what do Republicans believe in? We’ll see next week when they have a chance to support a procedural motion to at least consider the Senate bill.
If they do not, it will not be forgotten in 2018.
Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political, and media relations consulting firm in Florida.
He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as in the Reagan presidential campaigns. He is a former co-owner of WTVTTV in Tampa and former president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters.