USA First Look

Biden returns: What's next in the Obamacare fight?

Former Vice President Joe Biden will return to Washington on Wednesday to join House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats in an effort to rally support for Obamacare.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during an event to formally launch the Biden Institute, a research and policy center focused on domestic issues at the University of Delaware, in Newark, Del., on Monday, March 13, 2017.
Patrick Semansky/AP
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In the eyes of some Democrats, he might be the hero the party deserves – and the hero it needs.

Former Vice President Joe Biden returns to the political stage as a not-so-silent guardian of Obamacare just two months after leaving office. Joining House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats on the steps of the Capitol, an Obamacare rally will mark an unusually political start for a post-vice presidency.

The Democratic leaders will gather on the front steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. Wednesday in a joint celebration of Obamacare’s 7th anniversary and in protest of its potentially imminent repeal, according to Politico. The rally will be one of Mr. Biden’s first political appearances since leaving office in January.

Billed as a celebration of Obamacare, the demonstration will feature Americans who have benefited from law. They may not succeed in protecting the legislation, but they’ll certainly be watching when a repeal bill goes up for vote on Thursday, the actual anniversary of the law’s signing.

Whether the repeal will go through or not is unknown, even among conservatives. Architect of the replacement American Health Care Act and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told Fox News he feels “pretty good” about the bill’s passage while Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky predicted failure for the plan, which he calls “Obamacare lite.”

The replacement law is widely considered to be good news for young and healthy folks but damaging to the elderly and low-income, and would lead to one out of every 13 Americans losing access to healthcare by 2026, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office.

"What they have put forth is a terrible bill — 24 million people kicked off of health insurance, which the Speaker calls an act of mercy," said Ms. Pelosi of the plan on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”

On top of near universal resistance from the Democrats, the law faces opposition from Republicans as well, with moderates finding it too severe and more extreme conservatives believing it doesn’t go far enough. Republicans are currently scrambling to rewrite the law to include compromises to both sides, and President Trump has threatened that those who don’t fall in line may have trouble getting re-elected.

The repeal bill needs 216 votes to pass, and Trump implied that constituents would punish lawmakers who voted against it. Others believe the reverse may be true.

“I think if we do vote for this we will lose the majority,” said Republican Mo Brooks of Alabama, according to Bloomberg.  

While no one can be sure of the effect Biden’s political power will have on the bill’s uncertain status, the move is unusual for an ex-vice president. Past leaders have run for Senate seats, joined the private sector, and written novels, if they could resist the lure of the presidency.

But Biden’s outspokenness on Obamacare is in line with past comments indicating that he never intended to keep quiet in private life.

"While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent" Biden announced in 2016 after declaring he would not run for president. "I intend to speak out clearly and forcefully, to influence as much as I can where we stand as a party and where we need to go as a nation," he said, according to The Washington Post.

And Wednesday’s rally could be the first move in getting the old gang back together. Obama has also hinted that he plans to be an unusually vocal ex-president as well.

"Look, I have to be quiet for a while," Obama told senior advisor David Axelrod. But after a year or two, he said, certain issues might compel him to speak up. "You know, I'm still a citizen, and that carries with it duties and obligations," he said, according to USA Today.

Obama also has plans for an unorthodox presidential library that will serve as a “center for citizenship” that will play a supporting role for young leaders and organizations, the BBC reports.  

Even Hillary Clinton, who’s kept a low profile since the election, is indicating that she feels a signal calling her back to public life.

“I’m like a lot of my friends right now. I have a hard time watching the news, I’ll confess,” she said at a St. Patrick’s Day dinner in Scranton, Pa. “I am ready to come out of the woods and to help shine a light on what is already happening around kitchen tables, at dinners like this.”

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