Pictured: Politicians feeding legislation to a member of the American public

Shoving It Down Your Throat

Sean Freeder
Mar 24, 2017 · 3 min read

Since 2009, Republicans have relied upon a number of framing devices to argue against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Perhaps the most common of these has been the notion that Obamacare was “shoved down the throats of the American people”.

This phrase could plausibly refer to any number of aspects of passage — 1) moving through the legislative procedure at reckless speeds, 2) taking key votes without necessary information about how legislation would impact the nation, or 3) trying to pass the bill through a chamber despite widespread public disapproval.

If Republicans were serious about this charge, then, as they attempt to pass their own health care bill eight years later, we should surely expect them to handle the process quite differently. Specifically, we should expect them to 1) extend the length of deliberation and consideration of the bill so as to better inform the public and improve its quality, 2) wait until the CBO scores their bill before taking any key votes on it, and 3) not attempting to pass the bill through the House if the public does not seem to be on board.

Let’s see how they’ve done on that front!


Days from introduction to passage out of all committees:

Obamacare: 17 days
Trumpcare: 9 days

Days between introduction of bill and House vote on bill:

Obamacare: 115 days
Trumpcare: 17 days

The earliest version of the Democrats’ health care legislation was introduced on July 14, 2009. It was referred to several committees, the last of which approved it about two and a half weeks later. The bill then received intense public and expert scrutiny for several months before it finally passed the full House on November 7, 2009.

The AHCA (“Trumpcare”) was introduced to the public on March 7, 2017. A little over a week later, it was passed by the relevant committees. Then, just a week after that, the House schedules an up-or-down floor vote on the legislation, which, according to Trump, is going to be their first, last, and only attempt to pass the bill before he moves onto other areas of policy.


Passed out of committee before CBO scoring:

Obamacare: No
Trumpcare: Yes

Democrats faced some flak for passing its bill out of two committees just 12 hours after receiving a CBO score. Republicans chose to improve upon this supposedly careless decision by passing its bill out of two committees before the CBO even scored it. In other words, the Republicans moved forward despite not even knowing how the bill would affect insured rates or the deficit.


Public approval on day of House vote:

Obamacare: 38% approve — 42% disapprove (NET APPROVAL: -4%)
Trumpcare: 17% approve — 56% disapprove (NET APPROVAL: -39%)

On the day that Democrats passed their bill through the House, slightly more people disapproved of the bill than approved of it. How unconscionable! Republicans, on the other hand, have decided to schedule the floor vote of their bill on a day when the most recent poll indicated that a full majority of the public is opposed to it, 14% worse than the ACA. Even worse, less than one in five people are even willing to say they support the bill, which is less than half the number that supported the ACA.


If a four month period between introduction and voting is “shoving it down our throats”, then what is a two week period?

If voting on legislation only briefly after learning its effects is “shoving it down our throats”, what is voting on legislation when you have no idea what it does?

If voting on legislation that has the public split is “shoving it down our throats”, what is voting on legislation when the public is decidedly, firmly against it?

I propose we all rally around the metaphor “taping the bill to a meteor and smashing it into the Earth”.

Sean Freeder

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Political Scientist at UC Berkeley, with a research emphasis on political psychology. Lover of science, comedy, animals, sports, beer, and oxford commas.