The team was serenaded beforehand with the theme song from "Rocky" and Bachman-Turner Overdrive's amped-up "Takin' Care of Business." As their leaders read them inspirational quotes from Gen. George Patton, workers in the corridors outside were seen by reporters wheeling in cases of Bud Lght wrapped in plastic, for what was sure to be a raucous victory celebration. One of the key players, overcome by the moment, reportedly stood up in a closed-door meeting and blurted out, Let's get this "f---ing thing" done!"
You'd think from all the partying that the "f---ing thing" was the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series or something....not a looming vote to take away health insurance from an estimated 24 million Americans, including unknown thousands who will certainly die from lack of good medical care or the ability to even see a doctor. (That foul-mouthed "player," by the way, was U.S. Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona.)
But on a Thursday afternoon that will live in infamy, nothing could stop the illogical momentum in the U.S. House of Representatives of a bill labelled the AHCA, which I'm pretty sure stands for the Unaffordable I-Don't-Care Act, and which is arguably the worst piece of legislation to win passage in Congress -- albeit by the narrowest 217-213 margin -- since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
Let's call this song exactly what it is. This was a massive, nearly $900 billion tax cut for America's billionaires and millionaires, mostly, that House Republicans, with the enthusiastic support of President Trump, decided to pay for by stripping millions of working-class Americans -- bartenders, taxi drivers, home health care workers -- of their health insurance.
Amazingly, after voters started to see through this scam back in March and the initial push to destroy the 2010 Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, fell short, Trump and his allies managed to get more Republicans on board by making their scheme even less affordable and even more harmful to more Americans. The bill passed today allows states to opt out of the Obamacare requirement for coverage of people with pre-existing medical conditions -- which would toss sick people into "high-risk pools" that would typically raise their insurance costs by thousands of dollars.
Out in the real world, scores of angry, exasperated and downright scared Americans took to social media to share their anguished stories. A man said on Twitter that his wife just texted to apologize for visiting a hospital ER after she was raped -- an act now considered "a pre-existing condition" that could jack up their insurance rates. A bartender told of his years in food service before the enactment of Obamacare, when his brother once shoplifted fish antibiotics for him from a pet store that he learned to adjust for a human dose, among other health care misadventures. Many who'd survived cancer or other serious ailments with the help of post-Obamacare insurance voiced concerns -- which the House GOP apparently drowned out today simply by cranking up the volume on the BTO.
Never once during this renewed push to replace Obamacare did an advocate for their new Trumpcare offer an articulate or even coherent explanation for how citizens -- aside from those billionaires and their lower taxes -- would actually be helped by this boondoggle. Maybe this was all just the Republicans' bizarre way of honoring Star Wars Day, May 4. ("May the 4th be with you"...get it now?) After all, there was a scene in Star Wars, Episode 3 -- the one nobody saw -- when the formerly democratic Republic votes to become an evil Empire, prompting Natalie Portman's Padmé Amidala to remark, bitterly, "So this is how liberty dies...with thunderous applause." Here on Earth, though, we just kill it off with a boatload of Bud Light, apparently. Indeed, there was a frat-boy quality to the whole thing, as busload of white, mostly male, mostly older Republicans hopped a bus for Trump's White House Rose Garden to celebrate the launch of their health-care Death Star that fires much of its greatest harm at women, minorities, and children.
The victory party didn't really honor any real accomplishment. You see, the victory party was the accomplishment, the only accomplishment. The so-called American Health Care Act doesn't make health care more affordable, or more accessible, or more equitable, nor does it save any substantial dollars for the middle-class taxpayer. All it did was allow Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan claim a win, regardless of whatever crap is actually in the bill that most lawmakers didn't even bother to read. What was disgusting late this afternoon was how many news outlets emphasized the "victory" for Trump, not that this was a "Seinfeld"-ian victory about nothing.
House Republicans didn't want to know what was in the bill, but they especially didn't want you to know what was in the bill. A measure that stripped health insurance from 24 million Americans and will have massive, unknown impact on 1/6th of the U.S. economy was debated for all of three hours -- breaking the GOP's promise to the American people for transparency and days of open debate on important legislation. Lawmakers couldn't even wait for one week for the so-called "score" from the Congressional Budget Office of how this will affect taxpayers. Because actual knowledge might have messed up the "winning." And winning wasn't everything, it was the only thing. Or as Rep. McSally might say, the only "f---ing thing."
Only six of the 217 Republican House members who voted for the bill are going to bother to have town hall meetings over the May recess that starts now. What cowards! This while their constituents are looking forward to learning how to duct-tape their open wounds and how much fish antibiotics can cure the common infection.
Or maybe not. The Unaffordable I-Don't-Care Act now goes to the Senate, where the GOP only holds a 52-48 majority, not much of a margin for error. Certainly Democrats think they can stop it there, and that at least a couple dozen House Republicans who voted for today's bill could pay a steep price in next year's midterms. Some Dems even sang the 1969 Steam classic "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" as the vote tally passed the 216 needed for approval. But overconfidence is never a good look for the Democrats, as anyone who was a sentient human being on Nov. 8, 2016, may remember.