Stephen Elliott | Nashville Post
Two former U.S. Senate majority leaders — one a Democrat, the other a Republican — differed in their predictions of how health care will affect the upcoming midterm elections during a panel discussion in Nashville Friday.
Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota, said Democrats have been able to benefit politically from the health care debate more than their Republican counterparts for the first time in a decade.
“The preexisting conditions debate has captured the imagination of a lot of voters,” he said at the Nashville Health Care Council event. “My guess is that will be reflected on Election Day.”
Bill Frist, the former Republican senator from Tennessee, predicted Democrats will win the House, and probably add one or two seats to their slim lead in the Senate. But, he said, it won’t be because of health care.
“People don’t vote on issues in midterm elections,” he said.
Frist cited recent polling that suggested far more voters on both sides are basing their midterm votes on President Donald Trump than when Barack Obama held the office.
“What Trump does, all the posturing, is in large part what’s going to decide the elections,” Frist said.
Frist and another panelist, Doug Holtz-Eakin, an economist and president of the conservative American Action Forum, agreed that Congress, wary of a failure similar to last year’s, would not attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act after the midterms.
Daschle, on the other hand, said he would not be surprised to see new efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, in addition to similarly fruitless Democratic pushes.
“I think you’re going to see two polar opposites: repeal and replace and Medicare for all,” Daschle said. “Neither of them are going to pass. There will be quite a bit of activity even though you won’t see a lot of real substantive progress.”
That sort of congressional gridlock, the panelists largely agreed, would lead to more executive action by Trump. Some of that health care-related executive action, Frist argued, would serve as a political football rather than substantive policy efforts.
“Most of this is posturing in preparation for the real election,” Frist said, referencing Trump’s 2020 re-election bid.
Frist suggested to the room of health care industry officials that health care reform would have to start at the local level in part because “we don’t have a president who’s going to lead on health care.”