From right-wing talk show hosts has come venom. From liberal defenders of the Affordable Healthcare Act has come admiration and praise. We’re talking about three GOP female lawmakers – Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia – who were instrumental in sinking Trumpcare.
A Slate staffer wrote, “Anyone currently hosting a dance party on the grave of the Senate’s disastrous health care bill can thank Republican women for the freshly-packed soil. After Republican men failed to come up with a health care proposal their own party could abide, a desperate Sen. Mitch McConnell tried to simply repeal Obamacare as a half-measure that might help the legislators save face. Three Republican women refused to go along, derailing the plan.”
Meanwhile, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, whose insults toward women are a hallmark, charged, “The Republican caucus in the Senate is infected with essentially leftist members. ... These three female leftists in the Republican caucus are running the Senate, not Mitch McConnell.” In case you missed that: These three liberal women who call themselves Republicans are running the Senate. Yeah, who is wearing the pants around there!?
Several points deserve mention. First, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and other male lawmakers also came out to oppose the bill so it’s not – eye-roll, harrumph – just those women who are the flies in the ointment. Nevertheless, as many male colleagues held back, these three women were willing to stick their necks out to defend their constituents and explain that the bill was an abomination from a health-care perspective. They may be more moderate than many male colleagues but it is hard to dispute that they are also braver.
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Regardless of the gender of the objecting senators, Democrats will have a field day reigniting the “war on women” theme as they go after the GOP lawmakers who supported a monstrous bill that disproportionately hits women in certain respect. Much has been made of the attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood in the context of abortion politics, but the issue goes well beyond abortion. Women’s health advocates point to the Texas example where pro-life advocates’ efforts wound up increasing the number of abortions. In fact, the county-level data show dramatic increases in abortions and demonstrate a connection between cuts to family planning, reductions in contraceptive services and unintended pregnancy.”)
Listen, all by himself Trump is a giant turnoff for women voters. His popularity is low in part because his support among women is rock bottom. Ron Brownstein observed:
“The Election Day surveys found that men preferred Republican candidates for Congress by a 12-point margin, 55 percent to 43 percent. Women preferred Democratic congressional candidates by 10 points, 54 percent to 44 percent. In each case, that preference tracked closely with their vote in the presidential contest, where men gave Trump a 13-point edge and women preferred Clinton by 11 points.
“In the new survey, the GOP congressional advantage has narrowed among men to a 4-point margin – an 8-point decline in the party’s lead since last fall’s vote. But Democrats recorded a gain more than twice that large among women in the survey. Compared with Democratic congressional candidates’ 10-point edge with female voters last November, the survey showed women now prefer a Democratic Congress by fully 28 percentage points, 59 percent to 31 percent.”
The Trumpcare episode seems tailor-made to aggravate that problem. Republicans championed bills that are rotten for many Americans but women in particular. When women senators who had been excluded from the secret meetings among 13 senators stepped forward to halt the legislative debacle and raise a variety of concerns (most especially giant cuts in Medicaid), right-wingers ridiculed them. Democrats would be silly not to make this a major issue in 2018. If Republicans had a modicum of common sense, they would put these three senators and others with concerns about fixing the Obamacare exchanges and keeping Medicaid intact on a committee to work with Democrats. Will they? Don’t hold your breath.
Rubin is a Washington Post columnist.