After a dramatic early-morning Friday vote that appears to have at least temporarily derailed Republican attempts to gut Obamacare, both Colorado senators were calling for a bipartisan fix to the health care system at a time when partisanship is at an all-time high in Washington.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, voted on straight party lines numerous times over the last several days, supporting a series of failed bills that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated would cause anywhere from 16 million to 32 million Americans to lose their health insurance by 2026 while simultaneously sending premiums through the roof.
Dubbed Trumpcare by its many, many critics — and polling at around 20-percent popularity — Republican’s health care agenda after seven years of railing against Obamacare amounted to a frenzied bid to dismantle the now-popular program without any meaningful replacement.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, repeatedly voted along party lines to block Republican attempts to crush Obamacare, calling for his GOP colleagues to work across the aisle in a more traditional senatorial process, including committee hearings with actually testimony from stakeholders. He blasted the process and the policy, calling out Trumpcare for the damage it would do to Colorado families.
Gardner, meanwhile, kept his focus on the past administration and the problems with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“After years of double digit premium increases on the individual market, and 145,000 Coloradans paying a fine to the IRS because they cannot afford the insurance options available to them, it is clear the status quo is simply unacceptable,” Gardner said. “As I have said many times, I will do whatever I can to rescue Coloradans from Obamacare’s failures.”
Six percent of Coloradans get their insurance on the individual market, with the vast majority obtaining health insurance through their employers.
“I’ve called for healthcare reform to to be a bipartisan process, and I hope that members on both sides of the aisle can work together to develop a healthcare system that works for the American people,” Gardner added. “I remain committed to reforming our nation’s broken healthcare system, and I’ll continue to work to bring relief to Coloradans being hurt by the negative impacts of Obamacare.”
In fact, Republicans largely excluded Democrats and many Republicans from the process despite repeated calls for bipartisanship over the last several months. Gardner was part of a secretive 13-member group of all-male senators who forged the doomed Republican replacement bill known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act.
After the BCRA failed by a large margin earlier in the week, with every Democrat and numerous Republicans voting against it, the final vote came down to a 1:30 a.m. “skinny repeal” that would have eliminated key provisions of the ACA. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and John McCain joined Democrats in ending that bid by a 49-51 margin.
Now President Donald Trump, rather than working to fix the key problems with the ACA, has vowed to work to undermine it and let it die. Such a de-funding of the ACA would be catastrophic for millions of Americans now reliant on the Obamacare health exchanges, according to expert analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation and other health care groups.
“It should have never been this close,” Bennet said of the skinny repeal vote. “After seven years of campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forced a vote at 1:30 in the morning, on a bill he introduced only a few hours earlier. He did so without a single hearing to discuss its contents and provide bipartisan input. The process was a disgrace, but the substance was worse.
“The last version of the bill would have caused 16 million Americans to lose their health coverage, increased premiums by 20 percent, and plunged the insurance market into turmoil,” Bennet added. “This is a far cry from President Trump’s repeated promise of a ‘terrific’ plan that would ‘cover everyone’ at a ‘small fraction of the cost.'”
Bennet added that the cynical process was aimed purely at some sort of legislative “win” rather than actually helping Americans obtain affordable health care and insurance.
“In recent weeks, it has become clear that President Trump and Leader McConnell’s only goal was to pass something, anything — regardless of how much it harmed millions of Americans,” Bennet said. “There is no shortage of cynicism in Washington, but this surely ranks near the top. Our country deserves better from its representatives.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who had joined a bipartisan group of governors calling for a better process, continued beating that drum after Friday’s close call.
“We are encouraged that the Senate has rejected efforts that would have raised health care costs, limited health care coverage, and hurt hundreds of thousands of Coloradans,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and deliver specific plans that will improve our health insurance system by lowering costs and providing stability for the marketplace. As governors, we are on the front lines of this debate. We must move forward in a transparent, collaborative, bipartisan manner to address problems we can all agree need fixing.”
Democrats welcomed the public outcry against Republican plans to de-fund Medicaid and pass on massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.
“Regardless of whether you support the Affordable Care Act or oppose it, most Coloradans are deeply dissatisfied with our health care system,” Bennet added. “They know it needs major reforms to lower costs, expand coverage, and increase choice. They deserve a health care system worthy of their decency and befitting the wealthiest and most innovative nation on Earth.
“In the days ahead, as we continue with health care and take up tax reform, stay engaged,” Bennet urged. “Don’t accept the dysfunction. Demand that your leaders reflect your decency and common-sense. Insist that they tackle our nation’s challenges with the seriousness they deserve. We can do this if we work together.”
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat who represents Vail and a surrounding portion of Eagle County in Congress, hailed the Senate’s failure to dismantle the ACA.
“This is a big win for the American people: for the little girl in Pueblo who underwent open-heart surgery at three weeks old without hitting policy limits–for the grandfather in Lakewood who depends on Medicare after serving our country–for the young mom in Colorado Springs who is able to obtain the prenatal care she needs for a healthy pregnancy–for the college student in Boulder who can stay on mom and dad’s plan while he pursues higher education,” said Polis, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018.
“This is the moment when we decide what kind of country we want to be, and I’m proud to know we’re standing together and standing up for 22 million Americans who would have lost their health care if the Republican plan succeeded,” added Polis, who voted against the House version of Trumpcare that passed by a scant four votes in May.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Cortez Republican who voted in favor of that bill (called the American Health Care Act) and represents part of Eagle County in Congress, did not issue a statement on this week’s Senate health care failure.
Steamboat Springs Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, who represents Eagle County in the state House of Representatives and is challenging Tipton for 3rd Congressional District seat in 2018, tweeted her appreciation of Collins and Murkowski’s Senate votes against the various GOP bills: “Thank you
@SenatorCollins @lisamurkowski We need strong women like you in House in Senate!”