The Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is less popular than the bank bailouts.
The American Health Care Act, the GOP healthcare bill passed by the House in May and currently making its way through the Senate, is among the most unpopular pieces of major legislation to come out of Congress in history. It is so unpopular, in fact, that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) designed to rescue big banks during the financial crisis had a higher approval rating.
On Thursday Senate Republicans, who have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act for seven years, unveiled their bill to end the law's mandate that almost everyone have health care. Four Republican Senators have voice opposition to the bill -- Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Ron Johnson.
Just 35% of respondents to a Morning Consult/Politico poll released this week said they approve the AHCA, while 50% said they disapprove the bill. The same poll showed support for the legislation is falling among Republicans as well, with 30% of GOP voters disapproving their party's bill, up from 15% a month ago.
A survey from Public Policy Polling found support for the AHCA to be even lower, with just 24% of respondents supporting it compared to 55% opposing it. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they think the best path forward on healthcare is to repeal the ACA, while 59% said they think it should be left in place with fixes.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released just after the Senate version of the AHCA was unveiled found that just 16% of respondents think the House repeal-and-replace bill was a good idea, while 41% of respondents said Obamacare was a good idea.
An analysis from The New York Times found that the AHCA does not have a plurality of support in a single U.S. state. The bill is most popular in Oklahoma, where it has 38% support.
"I can't think of another major piece of legislation like this where the plurality of the public in every single state oppose it," said Christopher Warshaw, an associate professor of political science at MIT. "We're in totally uncharted territory here."
The House GOP bill would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured in exchange for a $119 billion reduction in the deficit over ten years and nearly $800 billion in tax cuts that would overwhelmingly benefit the rich. The Tax Policy Center estimates a $37,000 average annual tax cut would go to the highest 1% of earners, and the top 0.1% would get a $200,000 tax cut. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities forecasts the tax cuts for the 400 highest-income households entailed in the legislation would exceed the cost of maintaining Medicaid expansion in most states.
Warshaw in May flagged the AHCA's historic unpopularity, noting in May the public disapproves of the bill more than it did the Clinton health care plan in the 1990s, the ACA when it was passed under the Obama administration, and, perhaps most notably, the TARP bill passed under President George W. Bush.
"If you look at polling on TARP in the months before it was passed and even a month or two after it was passed, it hovered between various polls somewhere between the high 30s and the high 40s in terms of the percentage of the public that approved of it, compared to about 30% approval of the Republican healthcare bill right now," Warshaw said. "That's a massive difference.
TARP allowed the Treasury Department to purchase $700 billion of toxic assets and equities from financial institutions during the 2008 financial crisis (about $430 billion were ultimately disbursed). Banks including Citigroup (C) , JPMorgan Chase (JPM) , Wells Fargo (WFC) , Morgan Stanley (MS) and Goldman Sachs (GS) received funds.
The legislation passed the Senate on October 1, 2008, garnering 39 Democratic votes, 34 Republican votes and one Independent vote and passed the House on October 3, with 172 Democrats and 91 Republicans voting for the bill and 63 Democrats and 108 Republicans voting against it. President Bush signed the legislation on October 3.
Warshaw said bipartisan support for TARP among lawmakers might help to explain public approval of it, at least in the early stages. "On complicated issues like this, the mass public tends to follow the elites," he said.
The bailout became less popular over time. A Gallup poll from December 2008 found that public approval of the bill flipped just two months after it was passed. The backlash against the bank bailout can be tied to both the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tea Party.
Senate Republicans are set to unveil the latest version of the AHCA on Thursday. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that of the 23 million more people the House version of the bill would leave uninsured by 2026, 14 million would come as a result of reduced Medicaid enrollment. President Donald Trump in private characterized the House bill as "mean." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he hopes to bring the legislation to a vote before the July 4 recess.
"In general, it's easier to get behind laws when it's very clear what the goal is, what the process is to get to that goal. And in healthcare, it's really complicated, and it's really hard to understand what the policy effects are going to be," Warshaw said. "Passing a bill that's this unpopular...is going to hurt [Republicans] in the next election. The only question is how much."