Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is in quite the tizzy about something Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) didn’t say:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on Friday said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had accused supporters of Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill of murder.
Hatch, who is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, was responding to a tweet in which Sanders claimed “Thousands of people will die if the Republican health care bill becomes law.”
Apparently aghast at someone actually describing the real-world harm the Republican Party and Donald Trump intend to inflict on Americans with their monstrous “health care” abomination, the office of the self-styled Republican eminence grise of the Senate from Utah took to Twitter to complain.
But Sanders never called it “murder.” What he said, questioned by Anderson Cooper of CNN, was that thousands of people will die.
“It is an extraordinary statement because this is an extraordinary piece of legislation,” Sanders replied. “If you throw 23 million people off of health insurance, if you cut Medicaid by over $800 billion dollars, there is no question but that thousands of Americans will die.”
“This is barbaric,” he said. “Frankly, this is what oligarchy is all about. It’s the wealthy and powerful saying, ‘We need even more tax breaks’ — despite the fact that they’re doing phenomenally well — and if it means people in America dying ... ‘Hey, that’s not our problem.’”
The reason Sanders didn’t call it murder is under just about any definition you look up, murder is described as an “unlawful” act of “pre-meditated” killing:
noun: murder; plural noun: murders
the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.
to kill (someone) unlawfully and with premeditation.
There is nothing illegal or unlawful about what the Republican Senate is doing. Passing a law that will certainly result in people dying can’t be characterized as "unlawful” by definition. It's the very antithesis of “unlawful,” in fact. It’s all perfectly, spotlessly legal.
“Pre-meditated,” though, is a much closer call:
[To] think out or plan (an action, especially a crime) beforehand.
It would be strange indeed for the Republicans to complain that their action in forcing a law down Americans’ throats which patently will result in the killing of thousands is not a “pre-meditated” result. In fact, the reality that many, many people will die from having their health care ripped out from under them seems so brutally obvious that any Republican voting for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its replacement with the monstrosity currently edging its way towards a vote next week can fairly be characterized as recklessly indifferent, at best, to that reality. The Washington Post has calculated the number of deaths as a result of the repeal of Obamacare at 43,000 per year—the near equivalent of total American lives lost in the Vietnam War, every single year. These figures are all of public record—they aren’t a mystery to Republicans. This type of reckless indifference towards the lives of others as a consequence of one’s actions is defined in the common law as “depraved heart murder:”
In United States law, depraved-heart murder, also known as depraved-indifference murder, is an action where a defendant acts with a "depraved indifference" to human life and where such act results in a death. In a depraved-heart murder, defendants commit an act even though they know their act runs an unusually high risk of causing death or serious bodily harm to a person. If the risk of death or bodily harm is great enough, ignoring it demonstrates a "depraved indifference" to human life and the resulting death is considered to have been committed with malice aforethought. In some states, depraved-heart killings constitute second-degree murder, while in others, the act would be charged with varying degrees of manslaughter.
Sanders' characterization of the number of deaths that will result from the implementation of “Trumpcare” is supported by an analysis of Congressional Budget Office Figures which tally the number of uninsured, and Massachusetts data examining the drop-off in mortality rates after the adoption of health care legislation similar to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), which would be repealed by the Republican law:
Approximately 17,000 people could die in 2018 who otherwise would have lived if a House Republican health proposal endorsed by the Trump administration becomes law. By 2026, the number of people killed by Trumpcare could grow to approximately 29,000 in that year alone.
The figures above were determined with reference to the House’s version of the law, since there is no direct analysis yet of the Senate version (by all accounts, however, the Senate version is actually more harmful). So Sanders is right, based on the available data.
But the bigger question is, why is Senator Hatch so concerned about what to call it?