If there is anything less politically astute than GOP members of Congress, it is those egging them on from the peanut gallery who think that the promise for seven years was “repeal but not replace.” The goal was not to make as many people as possible lose health-care coverage or to reinstitute barriers to coverage for the hard-to-insure. It was to replace Obamacare with something better. Now, Republicans surely were dreaming if they imagine that there was a magic formula to provide all the benefits of Obamacare with none of the costs or defects; but if they could not find a mutually acceptable alternative, then they did the responsible thing in first refusing to do no (more) harm.
At least President Trump’s base isn’t bemoaning the evisceration of Medicaid, the loss of protections for those with preexisting conditions and the slashing of subsidies for the individual exchanges. Whatever right-wing purists were selling, the country — including Trump’s base — has never wanted to buy. The latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll finds that “12 percent of Americans living in the counties that fueled Donald Trump’s win in the 2016 presidential election support the Republican Party’s efforts on health care.” Twelve. Right-wing radio talk-show hosts, TV pundits and think-tank gurus who have never run for office, held office or been responsible for the results of their white papers might consider that they have badly misunderstood the concerns of Americans, including those who voted for Trump and cannot be discounted as part of the “fake news” conspiracy.
The GOP is now in a state of intellectual and political disarray, the result of a president who lacked the understanding to lead a major legislative effort and of congressional leaders who thought they could push something, no matter how faulty, through the House and Senate simply by shaming members who had previously demanded Obamacare’s repeal.
The Post’s Dan Balz summed up matters:
The president’s embrace of the Republican promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was and is incompatible with political views he often stated as a candidate. He adopted the rhetoric of repeal and replace, but whenever he talked about health-care policy, he did not sound like a conservative Republican. He wanted coverage for everyone. He didn’t want to hurt people. He didn’t want to make cuts to entitlement programs, whether Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.What Trump espoused clashed with what conservative, small-government Republicans long had been preaching. In office, his ambivalence has been evident at virtually every turn in the debate. He complained about the House bill as too mean after publicly praising it. He wanted repeal and replace without any pain. He wanted a victory but could not engineer it.
The only hint of good news for the country and for the GOP’s redemption:
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement that his panel would hold hearings to explore “how to stabilize the individual market” under the existing law.A bipartisan group of 11 governors — including Republicans Charlie Baker (Mass.), Larry Hogan (Md.), John Kasich (Ohio), Brian Sandoval (Nev.) and Phil Scott (Vt.) — said they “stand ready to work with lawmakers in an open, bipartisan way to provide better insurance for all Americans.” . . . Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), one of the few in the chamber who has tried to be a bipartisan broker on health care, was placing calls to fellow senators who, like him, are former governors — a total of 11 senators including Alexander, John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Margaret Wood Hassan (D-N.H.). Aides said Manchin was presenting nothing specific yet to his colleagues, just a plea to “sit down and start bipartisan talking.”
That’d be a refreshing change — almost akin to responsible legislating. I cannot imagine that this will go down well with the right-wingers who still pine to slash Medicaid and remove protections for those with preexisting conditions. The president pouts that he would prefer to let Obamacare fail — and, I suppose, to let people lose health-care coverage. Just as he failed to anticipate the public reaction to repeal-and-replace, Trump deludes himself if he thinks that the party in power can avoid responsibility for a health-care-system meltdown on its watch.
In the meantime, Republicans have lost six months on cringe-worthy legislative wheel-spinning. It remains to be seen whether the gang that cannot shoot straight can successfully navigate a debt ceiling increase, a budget deadline and/or tax reform.