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Former GOP Senator Warns ‘No Do-Overs’ on Health Care

David Durenberger says ‘no’ is only ‘defensible vote’

Former Minnesota Sen. David Durenberger in a Monday op-ed warned Republican lawmakers against repealing the 2010 health care law. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Minnesota Sen. David Durenberger in a Monday op-ed warned Republican lawmakers against repealing the 2010 health care law. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Minnesota Republican Sen. David Durenberger took aim Monday at current GOP senators for attempting to ram through a motion to proceed on their controversial bill to dismantle the 2010 health care law.

In a USA Today op-ed, Durenberger laid out the normal procedures for deliberating on a bill with ramifications for millions of Americans of this magnitude: “You ask questions. You hold hearings. You understand what it would mean to your constituents. You listen to those who know the system. And when it doesn’t add up, you vote against it.”

The former senator published his piece on the heels of a Congressional Budget Office report released last week that concluded 32 million more Americans would be without health insurance in 2026 under the current plan to repeal the 2010 law now and replace it later.

The report also estimated that 17 million more people would lose their health insurance next year if repeal was enacted, and that premiums would increase by roughly 25 percent.

The White House dismissed the CBO report, saying in a statement that the nonpartisan group uses “flawed” techniques in its analyses.

New polls show Americans would prefer the 2010 health care law to remain in effect over having it repealed, and Durenberger warned Senate Republicans to heed public opinion.

“A vote in these circumstances will rightly provoke anger and distrust unlikely to abate,” he wrote. “Take it from me: A no vote on the Motion to Proceed this week is the only one that will be defensible in the years to come.”

Republicans lawmakers have crusaded for seven years on the campaign trail and in the halls of Congress to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, but they seem stuck now that they have a majority in both chambers and control of the White House.

Many remain in the dark on how Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to guide the health care legislation through the Senate for a final vote, but leaders have insisted they stagger forward with the process anyway.

“It’s a luxury we don’t have,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said Thursday when asked about the desire among members to know the plan before a vote to proceed is taken.

Durenberger called for more transparency among the GOP leadership and said that “voting on this hodgepodge of mysterious bills is not the way.”

He reminded Senate Republicans how Democrats had reached across the aisle in 2010 during the health care deliberations and proceedings.

“Seven years ago, Democrats supported a bill far from Democratic orthodoxy,” Durenberger wrote. “It did not provide for single payer, nor Medicare for all. Not even a public option. They handed Republicans a chance to build a health system that plays to our unique strengths as a nation, not to our weaknesses.”

Durenberger, who no longer supports the Republican Party, was a pre-eminent Senate authority on health care in the 1980s as chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee.

His political career was effectively ruined in 1990 when his Senate colleagues unanimously denounced him for misusing public funds, a charge to which he later pleaded guilty in court and was sentenced to a year of probation in 1995, the year he left office.

Durenberger urged Senate Republicans to consider what repeal without replacement would mean.

“There are no do-overs,” he wrote. “The vote for the Motion to Proceed is likely a vote for final passage, and the House clearly stands ready to pass the Senate bill unchanged.”

“There is no making good on all of the issues later,” he added. “Once the funds for health coverage are gone, it will take new tax increases to replace them. And what’s the likelihood that will happen?”

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