First thing’s first: As the title of this story states, the Texas court’s decision to strike down Obamacare was a lawless act of partisan idiocy, and will hopefully be reversed upon appeal. There is no silver lining in taking healthcare away from 20 million people.
That all said, this is the hand we’ve been dealt, and fortunately, we know how to play it now.
As Bloomberg reports today, the case is likely to stretch into 2020, and possibly beyond if it reaches the Supreme Court. That means that it will be the defining issue of the 2020 elections (well, beyond Trump’s brain rot and treason), and it could mean a lot of trouble for the GOP. Healthcare was the top issue in 2018 and voters broke overwhelmingly for Democrats on the subject, helping them take back the House and, notably, expand Medicaid even in three red states.
One of those states was Nebraska, where voters enacted Medicaid expansion via ballot initiative despite years of the GOP-controlled state legislature’s refusal to do so. Once implemented, an additional 90,000 people in Nebraska will have healthcare. That’s not a benefit they’re going to want to give up. And that puts Sen. Ben Sasse, who is up for re-election in 2020, in a perilous situation.
Sasse likes to go on cable TV, give speeches, and write books about the death of rational bipartisanship in Washington D.C., but like every other blabbering golden boy Republican, at the end of the day, he winds up voting for the GOP’s most hateful policies. In 2017, during the heat of the Obamacare repeal debate, he tried to not show his hand — a month or so before the vote, he told the press that the bill was more of a Medicaid reform bill than anything else.
“This is largely a Medicaid reform package,” Sasse said, during the lunchtime program at the meeting of the Seminar Network, which brings together hundreds of large donors to the organizations under the umbrella of Charles and David Koch.
Sasse noted their presence but declined to take a position on the bill, saying he has only read about 40 percent of it. “This session is actually on the record, right?” he said, when asked by a moderator how he would vote. “There’s press here? I have nothing to announce today.”
By Medicaid “reform,” he meant that the GOP’s ACA repeal would end the expansion by 2021, throwing millions of people off healthcare — the healthcare that his state’s voters just chose to enact despite the Republican Party’s vehement protests and misinformation.
Sasse, of course, wound up voting for that Medicaid “reform” bill, which meant that he voted to take away the healthcare that his state’s voters just extended to its most vulnerable. His wishy washy comments on things like pre-existing conditions and the social safety net could come back to haunt him:
As for those with pre-existing conditions, Sasse suggested that the percentage of people who are actually “uninsurable” is smaller than many believe.
“We can solve that problem,” Sasse said. “We have social welfare safety net programs that can solve that problem.”
Social welfare safety net programs like… Medicaid, perhaps?
For the next two years, Sasse is going to have to face questions from voters (and hopefully the press) about his take on the Obamacare lawsuit, the Medicaid expansion now in danger, and protecting those with pre-existing conditions. He’s voted for every Obamacare limitation and repeal, and now he’ll need to answer for it.
Now, Nebraska is a red state still, no doubt. But things are slowly changing. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, it was also home to a very close House race, where Kara Eastman earned 48% against incumbent Republican Don Bacon. The progressive message is breaking through, and with 90,000 people now getting healthcare, the stakes will seem even higher.
Sasse isn’t the only one who is going to face these questions: Susan Collins in Maine also faces an electorate that just voted to expand Medicaid (in 2017) and finally got a governor that will actually carry out the will of the voters. And Cory Gardner, the most endangered 2020 Republican, voted to repeal Obamacare, which already does not sit well with Colorado voters.
As such, Progressives Everywhere has started an ActBlue page to raise money for the eventual Democratic nominees in the Nebraska, Maine, and Colorado Senate elections in 2020. Raising money now will encourage better candidates to get involved and scare Republicans into possibly changing their positions, should Congress need to pass some new kind of healthcare protections bill.
For more stories like this one about state politics and campaign items, subscribe to the free biweekly Progressives Everywhere newsletter.