Was Rep Justin Amash's Surprising YES Vote on AHCA Justified?


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“Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day, but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of (politicians), too plainly prove a deliberate and systematic plan of reducing us all to slavery.”  -Thomas Jefferson

The problem with the news today is they no longer provide an objective look at what happened.  Instead, they provide a biased point of view and then tell you what to think and how to feel about it.

Instead, I’ll cover two competing views on Republican Representative Justin Amash’s YES vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and allow you to make up your own mind.  Haven’t read it yet? I’ll post it at the bottom of the article in an effort to declutter.

We’ll first look at his decision and validate it against our Principle of “Constitutionalism”.  This allows us to determine whether  the new AHCA bill is even valid, legal or constitutional.

The second way to critique Representative Amash’s decision and look at his reasoning.  We can then determine if the new AHCA incrementally takes us ‘Closer to Liberty’ or ‘Closer to Tyranny’. 

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Is AHCA even Constitutional?

There is no gray area on this question. The AHCA Bill is either constitutional or it’s not.  If it’s not, Rep Amash took an oath to uphold the constitution and failed by voting YES.   A NO vote on an unconstitutional bill is a constitutional vote. A YES vote for an unconstitutional bill is an unconstitutional vote.

The argument from those who uphold this principle of Constitutionality will claim that we even if AHCA is incrementally better than ObamaCare, his vote on a law that violates the Constitution should be an automatic NO.

They would also claim that just because this unconstitutional law is slightly better than the previous unconstitutional law, Libertarians have never been about voting for the lesser of two evils,  Quite the opposite.
So is AHCA unconstitutional?  Again, I won’t tell you what to think but reading more on it should color your favorability (or not) or Rep Amash’s vote. No one has ever been able to clearly articulate to me why the Robert’s precedent made ObamaCare constitutional so I’m not the guy to give legal advice.  Might I suggest a couple great articles:

Is Ryancare’s ‘Lapsed Coverage’ Surcharge Unconstitutional Under Roberts’s Obamacare Precedent?
Why I voted NO on the American Health Care Act – Representative Andy Biggs

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Does AHCA Take us Closer to Liberty or Closer to Tyranny?

Those who support Rep Amash’s YES vote because “AHCA is incrementally better than ObamaCare” will typically claim that they are ‘realists’ in the room.  They understand that we won’t wake up tomorrow living in a libertarian society with a perfectly Free Market Health Care system.  They argue that libertarians have to do what we can, when we can, to reduce the size of government, even if incrementally.

Rep Amash knows that a NO vote doesn’t repeal ObamaCare, it’s the law of the land.  Realistically, he notes, a YES vote can at least get us started in a new direction, one towards Liberty.

This might be true even though I believe AHCA to be a monstrosity of legal code atop another monstrosity of legal code.

The problem is that for for the past seven years, Republicans have run for Congress on a commitment to repeal Obamacare.  And now, even though they claim this is it, they are only amending ObamaCare, retooling the subsidies, taking out the individual mandate, and ensuring the government is the one who maintains power of the health care market.  

The AHCA is bad politics for the Republicans and bad policy for Amash’s name to be tied to.  Why risk putting your name on a slightly better turd sandwich than the one you inherited?  The one they all got elected on promising to repeal?  The one they passed very clear Repeal Legislation on more than 50 times when they knew President Obama would just veto?

It seems to me that allowing the ill-effects of government intervention into the health care market only empowers those calling for Single Payer, a death knell for individual liberty and one that ensures increased scope of government and decreased quality of product.

My principles of Limited Government and Free Markets refuses to support AHCA.  Part of me cheers knowing that it’s not likely to pass the Senate in it’s current form.


This is a tough one.  I’d love to hear your thoughts below on whether your support the AHCA because ‘at least it’s a slightly better turd sandwich’ or if you’d prefer a NO vote on it because ‘Repeal ObamaCare or NOTHING’.  

Would you be happy living with ObamaCare for another few years in an attempt to try to get full repeal?  I’m not optimistic that any power given to the government is one that you’ll see them give back without a long fight and without multiple electoral consequences for politicians.

Rep Justin Amash’s Response

This is not the bill we promised the American people. For the past seven years, Republicans have run for Congress on a commitment to repeal Obamacare. But it is increasingly clear that a bill to repeal Obamacare will not come to the floor in this Congress or in the foreseeable future.
When Republican leaders first unveiled the American Health Care Act, a Democratic friend and colleague joked to me that the bill wasn’t a new health care proposal; it was plagiarism. He was right.
The AHCA repeals fewer than 10 percent of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act. It is an amendment to the ACA that deliberately maintains Obamacare’s framework. It reformulates but keeps tax credits to subsidize premiums. Instead of an individual mandate to purchase insurance, it mandates a premium surcharge of 30 percent for one year following a lapse of coverage. And the bill continues to preserve coverage for dependents up to age 26 and people with pre-existing conditions.
I want to emphasize that last point. The bill does not change the ACA’s federal requirements on guaranteed issue (prohibition on policy denial), essential health benefits (minimum coverage), or community rating (prohibition on pricing based on health status). In short, Obamacare’s pre-existing conditions provisions are retained.
The latest version of the AHCA does allow any state to seek a waiver from certain insurance mandates, but such waivers are limited in scope. Guaranteed issue cannot be waived. Nobody can be treated differently based on gender. And any person who has continuous coverage—no lapse for more than 62 days—cannot be charged more regardless of health status.
Consider what this means: Even in a state that waives as much as possible, a person with a pre-existing condition cannot be prevented from purchasing insurance at the same rate as a healthy person. The only requirement is that the person with the pre-existing condition get coverage—any insurer, any plan—within 62 days of losing any prior coverage.
If a person chooses not to get coverage within 62 days, then that person can be charged more (or less) based on health status for up to one year, but only (1) in lieu of the 30 percent penalty (see above), (2) if the person lives in a state that has established a program to assist individuals with pre-existing conditions, and (3) if that state has sought and obtained the relevant waiver. Here in Michigan, our Republican governor has already stated he won’t seek such a waiver, according to reports.
So why are both parties exaggerating the effects of this bill? For President Trump and congressional Republicans, the reason is obvious: They have long vowed to repeal (and replace) Obamacare, and their base expects them to get it done. For congressional Democrats, it’s an opportunity to scare and energize their base in anticipation of 2018. Neither side wants to present the AHCA for what it is—a more limited proposal to rework and reframe parts of the ACA, for better or for worse.
In March, when this bill was originally scheduled to come to the floor, it was certainly “for worse.” The previous version provided few clear advantages over the ACA, yet it haphazardly added provisions to modify essential health benefits without modifying community rating—placing the sickest and most vulnerable at greater risk.
Over the last month, several small but important changes were made to the bill. The current version abandons that fatally flawed approach to essential health benefits (though the new approach includes new flaws), incorporates an invisible risk sharing program, and permits limited state waivers. These changes may slightly bring down (or at least slow down the increase in) premiums for people who have seen rates go up. Even so, the AHCA becomes only marginally better than the ACA.
Many have questioned the process that led up to the vote on May 4. I have publicly expressed my disgust with it. The House again operated in top-down fashion rather than as a deliberative body that respects the diversity of its membership. But it’s important to acknowledge that the bulk of this bill (123 pages) was released on March 6. Only about 15 pages were added after late March. Members of Congress were given sufficient time to read and understand the entire bill.

While an earlier version of the AHCA included a CBO score, the types of changes made to the AHCA in more recent stages render an updated score highly speculative and practically meaningless. For that score to be useful, the Congressional Budget Office would have to effectively predict which states will seek waivers, which waivers they will seek, and when they will seek them. This complex analysis of the political processes and choices of every state is beyond anyone’s capability. I weighed the lack of an updated score accordingly.
When deciding whether to support a bill, I ask myself whether the bill improves upon existing law, not whether I would advocate for the policy or program if I were starting with a blank slate. In other words, the proper analysis is not whether it makes the law good but rather whether it makes the law better. In this case, I felt comfortable advancing the bill to the Senate as a marginal improvement to the ACA. The House has voted more than 30 times to amend (not just repeal) Obamacare since I’ve been in Congress, and I have supported much of that legislation, too, on the principle of incrementalism. If it advances liberty even a little (on net), then I’m a yes.
Nonetheless, the ACA will continue to drive up the cost of health insurance—while bolstering the largest insurance companies—and the modifications contained in the AHCA cannot save it. Many of the AHCA’s provisions are poorly conceived or improperly implemented. At best, it will make Obamacare less bad.
The Framers of the Constitution understood that federalism—the division of powers between the national and state governments—would maximize the happiness of Americans. As long as Washington dictates health insurance policy to the entire country, there will be massive tension and displeasure with the system. I’ve always said, and I will continue to say, we need to start over: Fully repeal Obamacare, let the people of each state choose their own approach, and work together in a nonpartisan manner.

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