Billionaire Koch Brothers Critical Of Senate Healthcare Bill

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are displeased with the U.S. Senate's proposed healthcare bill, according to people who work for the brothers' political machine. The bill, which aims to make good on President Donald Trump's campaign promise to repeal Obamacare, may be voted on this week. The Koch brothers, who dump millions of dollars into political lobbying, are opposed to the bill, saying that it does not go far enough in removing the Affordable Care Act.

"We have been disappointed that movement has not been more dramatic toward a full repeal," said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity (AFP). AFP is a conservative political advocacy group funded by Charles and David Koch that is largely credited for turning the Tea Party movement into a powerful political force.

The Koch brothers were also extremely critical of the House version of this bill, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA), promising millions in campaign donations to Republican politicians who opposed and helped defeat the bill. Officials from AFP say that similar lobbying efforts will be used in opposition to the Senate version.

Many Republicans view Obamacare as a wasteful government program that intrudes on the lives of many Americans, and claim that the individual health insurance markets created by the ACA are collapsing. Phillips, among others who work in the Koch political network, said they want to see the Senate bill go further in gutting the Medicaid expansion that poor and disabled U.S. citizens depend on.

At an event with conservative donors in Colorado Springs over the weekend, attended by many high profile figures in U.S. politics, Koch aides said that the Senate bill does not do enough to dismantle Obamacare, which has provided health insurance coverage to approximately 20 million Americans since it was passed in 2010. Obama publicly criticized the Senate bill, saying that would only shift higher costs onto the elderly and sick.

"(This bill) would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it," he wrote in a Facebook post. "That's not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America's doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system."

Among those that attended the Koch brothers' event in Colorado over the weekend was Republican Mark Meadows from North Carolina, who was instrumental in shaping the House version of the bill into a more conservative product. As the Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Meadows has said that he will support a bill that clears the Senate in an effort to get the bill on President Trump's desk as soon as possible. However, he also said that the Senate bill would need to be amended to include allowances for insurers currently selling coverage on Obamacare exchanges to offer cheaper plans that do not meet the ACA's requirements for coverage.

Former presidential hopeful and Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who was also at the Koch brothers' event over the weekend, has proposed an amendment like that one, but he currently stands in opposition to the Senate bill in its existing form. Currently, five Republican Senators stand in opposition to the bill, and no Democrats are expected to vote "yes." Senate Republican leadership can not afford to lose more than two "yes" votes from the Republican majority, putting majority leader Mitch McConnell in a tough spot.

Then-presidential candidate Ted Cruz at an event held by the Koch brothers' political organization Americans For Prosperity in 2015.
Then-presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz at an Americans For Prosperity event in 2015. [Image by Paul Vernon/AP Images]

The Koch brothers' influence over the political machinery in the United States has been a matter of contention on both sides of the aisle. Polling shows that a staggering 84 percent of Americans believe that money plays too much of a role in political campaigning and influence. But public opinion has done little to end this financial influence over government, and the Koch brothers' organization is prepared to spend upwards of $400 million leading up to the midterm elections in 2018. Without legislation restricting this sort of influence, which is doubtful when those responsible for writing such legislation are the ones who benefit from the money spent to control American politics, experts believe that the grip that the wealthy few like the billionaire Koch brothers have on the U.S. government will likely never be weakened.

[Featured Image by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images]