In March, a few hours before Paul Ryan cancelled a vote on the Trumpcare bill because it would have failed, one of the committed no votes, Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei, was asked on MSNBC if he had been in contact with Ryan or Trump.
“No, I haven’t gotten any calls from the Russians on anything. I haven’t gotten any calls from the president. You know, it’s a good thing I don’t have any feelings or they’d be hurt.”
His opposition to Trumpcare in March garnered Amodei praise not only for being reasonable and “moderate,” but not unaccomplished at stand-up.
Alas, in May, it turns out maybe Amodei wasn’t joking. Perhaps he doesn’t have any feelings after all, at least not for any but the most well-heeled of his constituents.
By supporting Trumpcare, Amodei voted for skyrocketing insurance premiums, especially for older people and people with whatever a rapacious insurance industry finds it profitable to deem a “pre-existing condition.” Amodei also voted to effectively toss people from Medicaid by forcing states to curtail Medicaid eligibility, while reducing benefits for those who remain eligible. Before long, rising costs and limited availability are projected to drive tens if not hundreds of thousands of Nevadans back into the ranks of the uninsured, almost assuredly restoring Nevada to it’s pre-Obamacare perennial perch at the top of a bad list: states with highest percentage of uninsured adults. The insurance industry will again be free to hoodwink customers into purchasing crap plans that don’t cover anything. And while all this pain and suffering and bankruptcy and death and destruction rains down on American citizens, including and especially the most vulnerable, very wealthy people will get a very healthy tax cut.
“Seriously, you want me to go back and tell the people in my fourth of Nevada ‘the Senate will make it better?’” Amodei said to CNN May 2. “What the hell?”
And then, seriously, two days later, that’s pretty much what he told them: “I fully expect the Senate to continue what has been a raucous discussion to say the least. Nevertheless, American healthcare badly needs work. With my vote today, I am supporting a start of that newest work chapter…”
Amodei is only the fourth person to represent Nevada’s 2nd congressional district since it was established after the 1980 census. The other three (Barbara Vucanovich, Jim Gibbons, and Dean Heller) were Republicans of course, and while I would like to believe that Trump’s venality and incoherence could put even Amodei’s ruby red district in play for the Democrats in 2018, I don’t. If his congressional career were to face any genuine threat, it would probably have to come from the right.
I don’t know if a second vote against Trumpcare would have sparked a primary challenge from the right. We do know that before flip-flopping on Trumpcare, Amodei was reportedly worked over hard by Pence. And Trump threatened to back primary challenges to Republicans who opposed the first Trumpcare effort in March. The threat didn’t work then. Maybe it was dusted off and deployed to better effect in May.
In any case, Amodei isn’t the issue, health care is. And now that issue, that bill, will go to the Senate, where, as Amodei must now say to his constituents, “the Senate will make it better.”
Heller says he won’t support the bill as it came out of the House. Conventional wisdom holds that as that rarest of commodities, a Republican senator on the 2018 ballot in a state Trump lost, Heller must make every effort to at least look reasonable and “moderate.”
The profile of his Senate seat notwithstanding, of all notable or semi-notable Nevada Republican officeholders — Amodei, Sandoval, Laxalt, Hutchison, Roberson — Heller is arguably the least serious, and the most vacuous, of the bunch. Which may help explain why he’s really a rather accomplished flip-flopper in his own right.
But how could Heller (or, more accurately, his campaign handlers), who doesn’t share Amodei’s luxury of a perhaps unassailably safe district, justify voting for any health bill that raises rates, leads to the loss of health coverage and generally brings forth, as their president would say, American carnage?
By lying about it. Instead of standing up to Trump, congressional Republicans seem to be taking their cues from him, willing and eager to deny the existence of verifiable reality. They’ll just say Trumpcare is great, and then hope enough base voters — those faithful who will believe anything so long as it is the opposite of whatever is said by Democrats and/or the “FAKE NEWS” — show up in a mid-term to sustain their wretchedly pernicious political careers.
Given recent electoral results, the strategy can’t be counted out. It’s not only cynical, but given the practical horrors Trumpcare will inflict on millions of Americans while giving tax cuts to the fortunate few, it’s also morally and intellectually reprehensible. But it might work.
Needless to say I hope I’m wrong and this thing gets bottled up in the Senate indefinitely until Democrats win the House and impeach Trump or some damned thing.