Se­nate Dems take aim at cru­cial elec­tions

Health care vote could be­come is­sue for Novem­ber races

Yuma Sun - - OPINION -

WASH­ING­TON — Days af­ter end­ing a tur­bu­lent Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion fight, the Se­nate turned back to health care — with a bat­tle squarely aimed at col­or­ing next month’s cru­cial elec­tions for con­trol of Congress.

In a re­turn to its char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally more un­ruf­fled mode of work, the Se­nate on Wed­nes­day re­jected a Demo­cratic at­tempt to stop Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump from ex­pand­ing ac­cess to short-term health care plans, which of­fer lower costs but skimpier cov­er­age. It was clear Democrats would lose, and a real vic­tory was never fea­si­ble since the mea­sure would have died any­way in the Repub­li­can-run House.

But by push­ing ahead, Democrats made Repub­li­cans cast a health care vote that Democrats could wield in cam­paign ads for next month’s midterm elec­tions, in which they hope to top­ple the GOP’s 51-49 Se­nate ma­jor­ity. The vote was also aimed at re­fo­cus­ing peo­ple away from the Se­nate’s nasty bat­tle over con­firm­ing Brett Ka­vanaugh to the Supreme Court, which both sides say has trans­formed in­dif­fer­ent con­ser­va­tive vot­ers into mo­ti­vated ones — for now.

Wed­nes­day’s vote was about show­ing whether Congress will “al­low in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to scam Amer­i­cans with cut-rate health in­sur­ance,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of that vote.”

Repub­li­can Sen. Cory Gard­ner of Colorado in­sisted it was ac­tu­ally the Democrats who had done them­selves no fa­vors with the vote.

“Look, if they want to take away peo­ple’s health in­sur­ance and that’s what they’re cam­paign­ing on for the next sev­eral weeks, I think it’s a los­ing strat­egy,” said Gard­ner, who heads the Se­nate GOP’s cam­paign or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Us­ing reg­u­la­tions, Trump has moved to let peo­ple buy short-term in­sur­ance that could last one year — and up to three years if re­newed. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, which Trump and Repub­li­cans have weak­ened but failed to re­peal, cre­ated more lim­ited ver­sions of those plans, last­ing up to just three months. The poli­cies are for peo­ple who don’t get cov­er­age at work.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion says pre­mi­ums for the new short-term plans will be around one-third the cost of com­pre­hen­sive cov­er­age that Obama’s law re­quires. Repub­li­cans have pro­moted them as a low-cost op­tion for strapped con­sumers af­ter years of steadily ris­ing pre­mi­ums, which they blame on Obama’s law, and GOP can­di­dates will be happy to use Wed­nes­day’s vote to make that point.

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