President Donald Trump and members of the House in the Rose Garden on Thursday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Opinion writer

Thursday’s win on health care is a major victory if for no other reason than that failure would have had dire consequences for the GOP. The matter of repeal and replace and how it affects Republicans’ future is not over, but this issue has cleared a big hurdle.

It says something positive about this White House’s flexibility, patience and diligence to stick with the health-care bill after some setbacks and get it done. I’m sure the news coverage will include that the Senate will be a challenge, but that is a problem for another day. Everyone knows that Thursday’s passage is just the first step, albeit a major one, in ridding the country of the disaster that is Obamacare.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been watching every step of the way, and, as I always say, McConnell is one of the few people in Washington who always has a plan. If anything is certain, it is that McConnell was neither surprised by the vote nor by the challenges he now faces in ushering a health-care bill through the Senate.

And whatever criticism the House bill might still have, it pales in comparison to that which would have befallen the White House and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) if repeal and replace hadn’t successfully moved out of the House.

Also, I think the bill’s passage emphasizes just how important getting a budget agreement this week really was. In politics, sometimes you can only measure success by the headlines you did not get. While the GOP can bask in the glory of The Post headline, “With vote, GOP moves to fulfill a major Trump campaign promise,” imagine the headlines the White House and Republicans in Congress would be getting right now if they had failed to advance the health-care bill and to fend off a government shutdown over the budget.

Instead, the narrative is that a major part of Obamacare’s repeal and replace is on its way to the Senate, the government is funded through summer, President Trump will be on a march around the world in the weeks ahead, and the Democrats are mostly left in the dust.

Speaking at the Rose Garden to the backdrop of perhaps 100 Republican representatives, Trump celebrated the victory, saying “this is a great plan. I actually think it will get even better” when the Senate begins its own work on a health-care bill. For the skeptics who were saying Republicans can’t govern and Trump can’t produce a victory, the Rose Garden celebration must have been especially painful. Ryan mirrored the president’s praise, arguing “one thing is now clear: Republicans are committed to keeping our promise.”

Maybe it is victory or maybe it is just the absence of calamity, but either way, Trump and the Republican majority in Congress are governing.