One Democratic senator said the GOP’s health care bill would make the “Wicked Witch of West cringe.” Another compared it to a “mean dog.” Liberal hero Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the bill will leave Americans’ blood on Republicans’ hands.
The health debate is nothing if not over the top, with runaway metaphors beginning to pile up in the halls of the Capitol.
The oratory is part of an intense campaign to block Senate GOP leaders from cobbling together 50 votes for their plan, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will result in 22 million fewer people on the insurance rolls by 2026.
Some are cliche: Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called the bill a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” while Sen. Jon Tester of Montana said it was “truly putting lipstick on a pig.”
Then there’s Sen. Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, who riffed off President Trump’s own comment about an earlier version that he reportedly called “mean.” Mr. Durbin said the Senate GOP’s efforts to soften those edges didn’t work.
“You can put a lace collar on a pit bull and it’s still a mean dog,” he said.
Perhaps they were simply following the lead of Rep. Drew Ferguson, a Georgia Republican who in January compared the Obamacare to a goat that’s wrecked his house for six years. Evoking the GOP’s “repeal and replace” effort, he said he’d need to shoo the goat out and clean up its mess before rebuilding.
The debate has taken darker turn since then, as Republicans struggle to push the repeal effort across the finish line, spurring Democrats to denounce the bill in more extreme terms.
Mr. Tester said Republicans were playing “Russian roulette with people’s lives,” while a labor union of transit workers said the bill was “the equivalent of a death sentence for countless everyday Americans.”
“This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives,” Ms. Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, tweeted after reading the GOP’s draft bill.
Republicans have bristled at the accusations, saying they’re making a serious effort at trying to stabilize a wobbly health system fostered by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Kevin Sheridan, a GOP strategist, said Obamacare dumped too many able-bodied people into the Medicaid system instead of making it the program better for the truly downtrodden it was designed to help.
He also said Democrats are proving to be “intellectually bankrupt” with their broadsides, pointing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to call the GOP the “death party” on Twitter.
“Democrats say, ‘You’re murdering people.’ Just stop it,” Mr. Sheridan said. “Thankfully, most people tune them out.”
One Democratic strategist, however, said what goes around comes around, after conservatives once claimed a board created by President Obama to achieve Medicare savings would ration care and kill off seniors.
“I have no problem with tough, aggressive rhetoric, and I recognize there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed — I’m not sure I’ve seen it [crossed yet],” said Jim Manley, who served as spokesman for former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. “But as someone who was around in 2009, I’m never going to forget ‘death panels.’”
Fact-checkers say the Democrats’ most recent claim — that coverage losses will kill thousands — may be imprecise, but it’s not necessarily wrong.
After Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, repeated the claim in a recent NBC interview, Politifact rated is as “mostly true,” citing academic studies that found health coverage can help people stave off death from things like cancer or kidney disease.
“That said, we can’t say with any specificity how many deaths will occur. It’s important to note that the studies provide estimates only, and each study found a slightly different result,” the fact-checkers said.
Republicans have disputed Congressional Budget Office estimates that say tens of millions of people will lose coverage by 2026 under their plan. The GOP says the CBO is making misguided assumptions about how people will behave once Obamacare’s heavy mandates are gone.