On Friday, my colleagues at Vox, Tara Golshan, Dylan Scott, and Jeff Stein published a remarkable piece collecting interviews with eight congressional Republicans about their health care bill. They asked the simplest question possible: What problems do you think this bill will solve, and how do you think it will solve them? Not a single Republican has a clear answer. The exchange with Sen. John McCain is particularly bizarre:
Generally, what are the big problems this bill is trying to solve?
Almost all of them. They're trying to get to 51 votes.
Policy-wise. What are the problems [in the American health care system] this is trying to solve — and is the bill doing that right now?
Well, it's whether you have full repeal, whether you have partial repeal, whether you have the basis of it. It's spread all over.
But based on the specifics of the bill you have heard so far, is it solving the problems [in the health care system]?
What I hear is that we have not reached consensus. That's what everybody knows.
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But McCain's reply, while incoherent, isn't as offensive as Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's straight lie that Americans will "absolutely not" lose Medicaid coverage under the House bill.
It's worth asking why Republicans are lying about this, why they can't give a clear explanation as to what their bill does, why they're jamming the legislation through a secretive, rushed process that even their own members are criticizing. Because there is a reason. And it is damning.
In 2009, Democrats had an easy answer to what the Affordable Care Act was meant to do: They wanted to cover more people and cut costs. They could give that answer because it was a basically popular position, and because it's what their bill actually did, or at least tried to do.
In 2017, Republicans have a similarly easy answer for their bill: They want to cover fewer people and use the savings to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. That is what their legislation does. But they can't give that answer because it's a horribly unpopular position.
That is why they are trying to write a bill in secret and pass it before the public has a chance to mobilize against it. That's why, when asked to describe the bill's provisions, Republicans offer baldfaced lies or word salad.