MSNBC's Sykes Slams GOP 'Caricature' Health Plan as 'Crueler' Than Obamacare

On Wednesday's The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes joined substitute host Nicolle Wallace -- formerly of the Bush administration -- for a "recovering Republicans" therapy session as the two discussed the Republican health care plan, and, true to form, Sykes made jabs from the left in spite of being a supposedly right-leaning analyst.

As he mocked Republicans for being afraid to defend the Senate plan, he described it as "crueler" than Obamacare, and complained that it is a Republican "caricature" because it includes "massive tax cuts for the rich." Sykes began his analysis:

Well, there's not a lot of profiles in courage -- it's more like that Monty Python skit, "Run away, run away!" because -- and maybe they don't have a choice because: What is it they're going to defend? They don't know what the bill is going to look like.

He continued:

I think the closer people look at this bill, the more questions they have about it. If you're a conservative, you realize it's sort of Obamacare light, except a little bit cheaper and a little bit crueler. And the uncertainty about the shape of the bill has got to freeze them.

Wallace then referred to the fact that Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins had been more willing to answer questions about the bill, and then followed up:

And she spoke to the point you just made so perfectly that this is not a conservative solution for addressing the health care needs of Americans, neither is it -- you called it "more cruel." I mean, what is there to sell? I mean, what is this bill, Charlie?

Oddly for a conservative, Sykes called the plan a "caricature" as he complained about Republicans wanting to cut taxes for the wealthy:

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It's not really a health care bill. What's driving it are two things: Number one is getting a win, saying we fulfilled our promise. And number two, you know, setting a stage for massive tax cuts for the rich, you know, and, as a conservative who has argued for years that conservatives were not talking about cutting the safety net in order to give rich people tax cuts -- what do they do? They actually come up with a caricature of what would be a Republican health care bill. 

He wrongly claimed that the plan would "slash Medicare" as he added:

So I certainly can understand why, if you're a Senator, you don't want to stand up and basically explain, "Yes, let's slash Medicare. Let's come up with something that is going to disadvantage low middle income people at a time when they're very distressed so that we can give a massive tax cut to the wealthy." That is not an easy sell, and obviously that's reflected in the polls as well.

As the segment ended, Wallace brought up the Donald Trump administration election fraud commission trying to obtain voter roll information from the states and the resistance that it was getting from some Republicans. Sykes argued that it is conservative to oppose the commission's effort at attaining the information as he replied:

I'm old enough to remember when Republicans and conservatives talked about states' rights, and when the idea of the federal government coming in and intervening and asking for this kind of data would have been horrible. I mean, can you imagine, Nicolle, what Republicans would have said if the Obama administration had argued that they wanted all of the states to give this kind of personal data about voters to the federal government?

So, in a lot of ways, this is a reminder that conservatives have always had a legitimate amount of skepticism about the federal government -- obviously a skepticism that some of the folks in the Trump administration don't share.

Wallace called herself a "recovering Republican" as she ended the segment:

I had that same thought about states' rights. This is why you and I belong in the same, like, talk therapy group for recovering Republicans.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Wednesday, July 5, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams on MSNBC:

NICOLLE WALLACE: Republicans went back home for the holiday recess facing backlash amid uncertainty over their health care bill. Collins was one of only a handful of lawmakers that met with voters face to face as many chose to skip public events altogether. Kasie Hunt is still with us. And, joining the conversation, longtime radio talk show host, my friend, and MSNBC political analyst, Charlie Sykes. So, Charlie, what do you make of this? Republicans passed a bill in the House, they celebrated it in the Rose Garden, the President called it "mean," he's now leaning on the Senate Republicans to do the same, they're getting a lot of guff back home. What does this say about this moment about Republican conservative policy makers?

CHARLIE SYKES: Well, there's not a lot of profiles in courage -- it's more like that Monty Python skit, "Run away, run away!" because -- and maybe they don't have a choice because: What is it they're going to defend? They don't know what the bill is going to look like. I think the closer people look at this bill, the more questions they have about it. If you're a conservative, you realize it's sort of Obamacare light, except a little bit cheaper and a little bit crueler.

And the uncertainty about the shape of the bill has got to freeze them. So, when you go into a town hall meeting -- and what is the case you make? You make the case that Obamacare is bad, but generally in politics -- and you know this, Nicolle -- if you have an idea that you really think is good, why would you hide? Why wouldn't you be out there making the case? And it's not just that they're hiding from these town hall meetings. You'll notice that no one is making the case for this legislation -- nobody in social media, nobody in the conservative media. The White House is not talking about it, and that's a tell.

WALLACE: You know, when you said "profiles in courage," I almost jumped out of my seat because when I saw Susan Collins, that's exactly what I thought about her.  She was forthright during the entire process. Kasie was hunting her down on Capitol Hill, and she always talked. She always talked and talked to you. And she spoke to the point you just made so perfectly that this is not a conservative solution for addressing the health care needs of Americans, neither is it -- you called it "more cruel." I mean, what is there to sell? I mean, what is this bill, Charlie?

SYKES: Well, that's the big question here. What is this bill? And the fact is, it's not really a health care bill. What's driving it are two things: Number one is getting a win, saying we fulfilled our promise. And number two, you know, setting a stage for massive tax cuts for the rich, you know, and, as a conservative who has argued for years that conservatives were not talking about cutting the safety net in order to give rich people tax cuts -- what do they do? They actually come up with a caricature of what would be a Republican health care bill.

So I certainly can understand why, if you're a Senator, you don't want to stand up and basically explain, "Yes, let's slash Medicare. Let's come up with something that is going to disadvantage low middle income people at a time when they're very distressed so that we can give a massive tax cut to the wealthy." That is not an easy sell, and obviously that's reflected in the polls as well.

WALLACE: Kasie, what do you make of sort of Charlie's point that this is neither conservative, nor is it a health care solution? I mean, what is the marketing job for a bill that is really -- it's not -- what is it?

[KASIE HUNT]

WALLACE: Charlie, I want to ask you about another area where this White House is getting some pushback. And that was their effort to obtain information on the state voter files from all 50 states. I think 45 of the 50 states -- deep, deep red states; very, very blue states -- no partisanship to the pushback, but bigtime resistance. And I wonder if you think that some of the Republicans outside Washington pushing back against this White House more forcefully might be sort of a path for Republican resistance to a very sort of untraditional and unconservative Republican President?

SYKES: Well, okay, I'm old enough to remember when Republicans and conservatives talked about states' rights, and when the idea of the federal government coming in and intervening and asking for this kind of data would have been horrible. I mean, can you imagine, Nicolle, what Republicans would have said if the Obama administration had argued that they wanted all of the states to give this kind of personal data about voters to the federal government? So, in a lot of ways, this is a reminder that conservatives have always had a legitimate amount of skepticism about the federal government -- obviously a skepticism that some of the folks in the Trump administration don't share.

WALLACE: I had that same thought about states' rights. This is why you and I belong in the same, like, talk therapy group for recovering Republicans.

NB Daily Congress Medicare Taxes Health Care Medical Insurance Conservatives & Republicans Poverty MSNBC The 11th Hour with Brian Williams Video Nicolle Wallace Charlie Sykes


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