Obamacare repeal vote shows power of US hard right
Since the passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, Republicans have attempted to repeal it. In March, the first attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare under President Trump failed, as both the hard right House Freedom Caucus (HFC) and more moderate Republicans were opposed. Despite Republicans winning a 241-194 House majority in 2016, that bill was pulled without a vote.
In order to persuade the HFC to vote for the bill, it was made more right wing. The current bill would allow US states to waive the Obamacare requirement that people with pre-existing conditions pay the same price as those without. If this requirement is removed, those with pre-existing conditions could be priced out of the insurance market.
It was thought that the move to the right would upset more moderates, and the bill would fail again. However, on Thursday the US House passed this bill by a 217-213 margin - Republicans could afford to lose 22 votes on their side, and lost 20. No Democrats voted for the Obamacare repeal legislation. Four House seats are currently vacant pending by-elections.
As in Australia, the lesson to take from this vote is that once the hard right is persuaded to vote for something, the so-called moderates usually cave. Hatred of Obama and all his policies unites Republicans, and they will vote to tear down his legacy.
US analyst Nate Silver wrote that the original Obamacare repeal bill was very unpopular, and the moves to the right are likely to make this bill even more unpopular. Yet 27 of the 33 Republicans who won their district by 14 points or less voted in favour, as did 14 of 23 in districts Clinton won. A backlash against the Obamacare replacement bill that continues until the November 2018 elections could cost the Republicans their House majority.
The Obamacare repeal legislation will now go to the Senate, where Republicans have a 52-48 majority. Even if the Senate passes the bill, it is very likely to make changes. The House and Senate would then have to resolve differences, and pass the same version in both chambers. If the HFC disagrees with any changes made by the Senate, it would be a problem.
Shortly after the health care vote, Turnbull met with Trump, and praised him for passing the bill. If Turnbull is still PM at the next Federal election, this praise will be campaign fodder for Labor; they will argue that Turnbull and the Liberals would like to get rid of Medicare.
Conservatives thrash Labour at UK local government elections
On Thursday, local government elections were held in the UK. These elections will be seen as a pointer to the result of the UK general election on 8 June. Local government elections are held every May, but the same wards are usually contested four years apart.
The most important result is the projected national vote share, which is calculated by extrapolating results in representative wards to the whole country. On this measure, the Conservatives won 38% of the vote (up 8 since the May 2016 local elections), Labour 27% (down 4), the Liberal Democrats 18% (up 3) and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) 5% (down 7).
UK governments have always performed worse at local government elections than at general elections. This 11-point Conservative lead is larger than Conservative government leads at either the 1983 or 1987 local elections, which were followed by Conservative landslides at the general elections held shortly afterwards.
The English councils contested at this election were last up in 2013. The Conservatives gained 319 English councillors and Labour lost 142, with the Liberal Democrats losing 28. UKIP had won 144 councillors in 2013, but lost all but one on Thursday. In Scotland and Wales, the Conservatives made the most net gains, and Labour suffered the most net losses. Overall, the Conservatives gained 563 councillors and Labour lost 382.
UKIP is a similar party to Australia’s One Nation. At the 2016 Federal election, One Nation’s preferences split 50-50 between the two major parties. As One Nation’s vote has declined in the last few months, both major parties have gained. However, UKIP’s lost support is going almost entirely to the Conservatives, probably owing to Brexit, and UKIP voters’ distrust of Jeremy Corbyn.
After Labour had seemed to recover last week, the last four general election polls have the Conservatives leading by 17-24 points.
Macron set to win French Presidential runoff tomorrow
The final French polls have centrist Emmanuel Macron leading the far right Marine Le Pen by about 62-38. In the last few days, Le Pen has lost the small amount of ground she had made up in the first week of the runoff campaign. The runoff election is tomorrow, with polls closing at 4am Monday Melbourne time.
I published an article on the French election for the University of Melbourne’s Election Watch yesterday.
This morning, Macron’s hacked campaign emails were released online. I do not think this will have an impact as they were released only hours before a media blackout for the French election began, and there appears to be nothing damning in the emails.