House Democrats’ headlong rush to impeach President Trump will have many implications for American politics and the presidential election. On policy, it could have a salutary effect for conservatives, by precluding the enactment of harmful policies that would push our health care system in the wrong direction.
Congress should of course do something about our health care system, particularly the millions of individuals priced out of insurance by Obamacare, also known as the Unaffordable Care Act. But in recent weeks, it appears that Republicans have fallen into the typical definition of bipartisanship—when conservatives agree to do liberal things. As a result, if the controversy over impeachment leads to a legislative stalemate over health care, it will at least prevent Congress from making our current flawed system any worse.
Renewed Impeachment Push
The emerging controversy over Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, and whether those actions constituted an impeachable offense, resulted in analyses of whether and how the impeachment push will affect the legislative agenda on multiple issues, including health care.
Multiple Republicans suggested impeachment could bring Congress’ other work to a halt, whether by consuming the time and energy of members of Congress and staff, poisoning the proverbial well for negotiations and compromise, or a combination of the two. Consider the following quotes from Republicans in a Wednesday story:
- House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas): “Impeachment makes a toxic environment more toxic.”
- Former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.): “There is more oxygen on impeachment than there is on legislation….My Democratic colleagues have put everything on hold to try to make sure that this President is not the one that signs any proposed bills.”
- President Trump: Nancy Pelosi has “been taken over by the radical left. Unfortunately, she’s no longer the Speaker of the House.”
- The White House: Democrats have “destroyed any chances of legislative progress” with their focus on impeachment.
Ultimately, whether any major legislation passes in this environment, whether on health care or other issues, will depend on two factors. First, will President Trump want to strike legislative bargains with House Democrats at the same time the latter are working to impeach and remove him from office? On that front, color me skeptical, at best.
Second, at a time when Trump will need Republicans to support him in an impeachment fight, will he aggressively push policies that many of them oppose?
Controversial Agenda in Congress
That dynamic in particular—Trump’s need to preserve his base during a knock-down political fight over impeachment—suggests limited room for the administration to maneuver. The president, and a few Republican allies in Congress, have proposed policies that most conservatives have rejected, and which the administration may now feel more pressure to shelve.
In July, the Senate Finance Committee approved drug pricing legislation over the concerns of many Republicans. A majority of Republicans voted against the Finance Committee bill, believing (correctly) that its provisions limiting price increases for pharmaceuticals amounted to price controls, which would have a harmful impact on innovation.
Since that time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has taken ideas from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and the Trump administration, and put them on steroids. The drug pricing legislation she recently introduced as H.R. 3 would force drug companies into a “negotiation” with defined price limits, confiscating virtually all their revenues if they do not submit to these government-imposed price controls.
Likewise, Congress’ action on “surprise” billing appears ominous. While Washington should allow states to come up with their own solutions to this issue, some Republicans want Congress to intervene.
Moreover, the solution many of these Republicans have embraced, linking payment for services to a statutory benchmark, amounts to an endorsement of single-payer health care—just for a defined set of medical services rather than the entire health-care sector. At least for now.
Save Us from ‘Socialism-Lite’
If Congress’ legislative agenda grinds to a halt over a combination of the impeachment food fight and the impending 2020 presidential campaign, it would mean that lawmakers at least did not make the health care system worse via a series of socialist-style price controls.
The American people do deserve better than the failed status quo. They need the enactment of a conservative health care agenda that will help lower the skyrocketing cost of health care.
But if Republicans have failed to embrace such an agenda, as by and large they have, at least they can stop doing any more damage through new policies that will push us further in the direction of government-run health care. Thankfully, Pelosi’s newfound embrace of a march towards impeachment may slow the march towards socialized medicine—at least for the time being.