Seven Long Years for Seventeen Short Days

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After being introduced less than three weeks ago the AHCA/Republicare was going to be voted on yesterday, but the bill now seems dead without ever seeing the floor of the House. To say the least, this is a shocking turn of events. Getting it through Congress was supposed to be the east part, and the Senate was going to be the struggle. Instead we find ourselves here. This recasts how we must view the future of multiple groups in Washington, so instead of breaking down what happened, this post will focus on what we might expect going forward.

 

Paul Ryan

In my opinion it is Paul Ryan who is dealt the biggest blow by all of this. Republicare was clearly his bill as he was easily the loudest voice trying to drum up support for it. Now he finds himself as the last remaining champion of a bill his own party shot to pieces from multiple sides of the ideological spectrum and that the American people had a 17/56 approve/disapprove opinion of.[1]

It’s also important to note his predecessor, John Boehner, had a beginning of the end that looked awfully similar to this. Boehner expressed repeated frustration at being rebuffed by the Freedom Caucus Republicans when trying to move forward on issues that benefited from party unity. February 24th of this year Boehner even commented that a replacement to Obamacare was going to be incredibly difficult because house members, “will never ever agree what the bill should be.”[2] This lack of ability to wrangle the party and whip votes is what ultimately drove Boehner out of Washington and we might be seeing the same group pull the same move against the new speaker.

Freedom Caucus

Republicare created some strange bedfellows, but probably none stranger than the elected Tea Party members known as the Freedom Caucus and those still supporting Obamacare. Their insistence that this bill was simply ‘Obamacare lite’ and ‘the largest welfare program every proposed by Republicans’ made them some of this bill’s most vocal opponents. The death of this bill is going to make this group feel emboldened and like they will be able to pull this administration further to the right.

On the morning of the second day this bill was supposed to get a vote, Trump tweeted:

Even accusations that they’d be cast as pro-choice couldn’t sway them though. There are interesting dynamics at play here because in many of their districts, they won their elections in landslides, but Trump beat Clinton by similar numbers. Trump was speaking specifically of the chairman of the Freedom Caucus Rep. Mark Meadows(R-NC) when he said, “I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,’”[3] Will Trump attempt to primary out some of the people who opposed him in this bill? Would he succeed if his approval among Republicans starts to slip while Reps remain popular in their own districts? It’s tough to say and I’m not quite ready to start forecasting 2018.

Donald Trump

Truthfully, I believe Trump is happy this is done. You could tell right away that this wasn’t a fight his heart was in because of how the White House rebuffed labeling the bill TrumpCare.[4] If a man who is willing to put his name on average steaks sold at the Sharper Image actively fought putting his name on this, it was obvious what his opinion of the whole thing was.

Now, I don’t think he was happy to take the loss on this, but look at his reactions following Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation compared to this Friday afternoon. Either he’s pivoted to become much more presidential, or this loss really didn’t bother him much. Trump can now shift the focus to tax reform which is an issue that the American people give him more credibility on and that is a much more personal fight for him.

The question remains though, how much political capital did this fight cost him? The Freedom Caucus played chicken with Trump and he was the one to blink first. The storied deal making abilities of the man got put to their first legislative test and he was found woefully lacking. If anyone has proven they can brush off a failure and stumble forward it’s Trump, but this could signal to the rest of his party that he’s not invincible and could be challenged more regularly.

Democrats

Finally we get to the group that Trump blamed for the whole thing falling apart.[5] It seems like the current GOP plan is to let Obamacare continue on, possibly guarantee it fails but more on that in a moment, and then tell the American people that the group that doesn’t have control of a single branch of government was the one that orchestrated it all. Trump challenged the Democrats to reach across the aisle and bring him their plan and that’s exactly what they need to do.

Republicans are going to catch a great deal of flack for promising that they had a replacement ready to go seven years ago. They just needed to be given the house, the senate, and the presidency first. It seems increasingly likely that for the vast majority of that time there was no plan but to criticize, so Democrats now need to bring forward their plan. Every Democrat I’ve heard openly admits that Obamacare has flaws that need to be addressed so they should write the bill that they would have introduced if Clinton had won the election.

Doing so would help demonstrate that they intend to remain a governing party and not just turn into an opposition party. Failure to do so will also assist Republicans in their claims that every negative truth and fiction about healthcare in this country is entirely on their heads.

ACA/Obamacare

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.” Those were Paul Ryan’s words at the brief press conference he held after the plan to vote on Friday was scrapped.[6] Trump echoed similar sentiments in his words to the media. With no replacement to vote on, the plan from the GOP is clearly to wait until Obamacare gets so bad that everyone else will come to the table and work with them.

It is something of a strange stance because if we take Trump at his word that Obamacare is a disaster for people, businesses, and this country, but he’s content to just leave it in place for now, that seems incredibly heartless. Either its destroying the economy and the American way of life and therefor needs attention immediately, or it’s none of those things.

More importantly though, there are actually many things this administration has the power to do on its own to either help Obamacare better serve the needs of the people or to undercut it entirely. As HHS Secretary Tom Price put it:

There are also plenty of things happening on the state level with Medicaid tied to Obamacare that this administration could bolster or hamstring.[7] It would be very easy for Trump and other Republicans to say they’ll just wait for Obamacare to fail while actively working behind the scenes to guarantee it does just that and for the fifth consecutive election, campaign on the idea that the American people need to grant them more power for them to come up with a replacement plan.

Final Thought

If you would have polled any politician the day after the most recent election, I would bet 95% would have agreed that Obamacare was virtually dead and gone. I know I would have laughed in your face if you would have told me that Republicans wouldn’t even vote on either repeal or replace. You could easily argue that both Clinton’s and Obama’s attempts at healthcare fixes cost their party a majority in Congress in the following election. Normally I would suggest history will repeat itself, but nothing about this last week has made me want to use the word normal unless it’s proceeded by the letters ‘ab’.

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