Last week was a huge disappointment, for those of us who feel that the American people deserve a whole lot better, than what they’re currently getting under Obamacare. Premiums have been skyrocketing; deductibles are so high that many people who technically have healthcare insurance under Obamacare, can’t afford to use it; insurance companies have been dropping out of the healthcare exchanges left and right; and Obamacare is close to a death spiral, if it’s not already in one. But despite all these reasons to get rid of Obamacare, and replace it with something that actually works, congressional Republicans last week couldn’t manage to put together the necessary votes in the House to do it. It’s embarrassing.
We managed to come up with the votes to repeal Obamacare (about 60 times) when it really didn’t matter, because it was known that Obama would veto it. But now when we were shooting with real bullets, it was just too hard. I’ve thought long and hard, but I can’t think of a bigger legislative disappointment in my two decades in the House.
To be fair, the disappointment I’m expressing, is at least matched by the exuberance many Americans feel, who opposed the repeal of Obamacare. I and other Members of Congress have been receiving an avalanche of emails, phone calls, and letters, urging, no demanding, that we leave Obamacare the hell alone. And we’ve also received a not insignificant amount of input from constituents stating, in effect, the repeal doesn’t go far enough, or things to that effect.
So what’s a Congress to do? Well, as of last Friday, it appears that this one will do – not much. Some Republicans, both in and out of Congress, have expressed the view that the best course of action, is to do nothing, and just let Obamacare fail. Of course if that happens, a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt. That’s the reason the Republican plan contained a “replace” as well as a repeal – to save people from being hurt when Obamacare implodes. Besides, I can almost guarantee that Democrats, and their friends in the mainstream media, would blame Republicans for its demise, because it would have collapsed on our watch. Fortunately, there’s still some hope that congressional Republicans might get our act together, and pass a repeal and replace bill. We’ll see.
How did it come to this? Well, it was clear that there would be no cooperation in repealing Obamacare from Democrats in Congress, because they had passed it without any Republican support. So it had to be done with only Republican votes. And Republicans were divided.
Republicans in the House of Representatives are divided into more or less three groups. There are 50 or so moderate Republicans who belong to the Tuesday Group (guess what day they meet.) There are 170 or so conservatives who belong to the RSC, the Republican Study Committee (including me.) And a few years ago 30 or so from the RSC broke off to form the Freedom Caucus. Some of the Freedom Caucus folks attend both Freedom Caucus and RSC meetings.
Anyway, the Freedom Caucus guys weren’t satisfied with the Republican healthcare repeal and replace bill. President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan negotiated several pretty significant changes with the Freedom Caucus, which made the bill more conservative (and I think better – work requirements for example.) As a result of these changes, we lost a few moderates, but should have picked up more than enough Freedom Caucus votes to pass the bill. President Trump thought there was an understanding that the changes would bring the Freedom Caucus on board. It didn’t. Trump felt double-crossed; said he’d negotiated in good faith, and it was time to vote. With no Democratic votes, and without Freedom Caucus votes, the bill was doomed. So rather than have the bill go down in flames, it was pulled. And Obamacare remains the law of the land.
The next day, President Trump tweeted out “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club for Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood and OCare!”
Here’s the way I see it. If you promise you’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you ought to repeal and replace Obamacare. If you know you’re going to get zero Democratic votes, Republicans have to have their act together enough to function as a governing majority. And we obviously don’t.
There’s an expression: “Don’t let the perfect, be the enemy of the good.” Another way of putting it is this: “It’s my way or the highway” means you’ll probably get nowhere. Unless enough congressional Republicans understand this, or learn it pretty quickly, we have very choppy waters ahead. And other important things, like reforming the tax code, and getting control of our borders, and enacting policies that will strengthen the American economy and grow jobs, just won’t happen. And sadly, Obamacare will remain the law of the land.