The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The GOP health-care bill is a complete political dud

President Trump gathers with congressional Republicans in the White House Rose Garden after the House approved the American Health Care Act last week. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
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Republicans failed to pass a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act in March. So they made some changes and cobbled together enough votes to squeeze a measure through the House. Then they celebrated.

The American people aren't celebrating. In fact, a new poll shows that this updated bill is about as much of a political dud as its predecessor.

Which is to say: a complete dud.

The survey, by Quinnipiac University, found that just 21 percent of registered voters approve of the American Health Care Act right now, up only slightly from the 17 percent who said they did in March. As before, a clear majority disapproves of the bill: 56 percent.

Rather amazingly, only 9 percent of voters approved of the bill “strongly,” while 46 percent disapproved strongly. That's 5-to-1 negative when it comes to those most adamant about the legislation. It suggests that enthusiasm is very much against this bill, and that even supporters don't feel very good about it — an ominous sign for a GOP that's increasingly worried about its majorities in 2018.

A caveat in all of this is that Quinnipiac has been a little harder than others on the GOP bill — and on President Trump. But it's hardly the only poll to show that this measure is deeply unpopular; CBS News showed Americans opposed the GOP legislation 62 percent to 29 percent around the same time. And there is no evidence that this bill is anything close to approaching popular.

Even with the changes that won over conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus and got the bill passed with the slimmest of majorities last week, just 48 percent of Republicans approve of it. About 16 percent disapprove, and 36 percent are undecided. Only 21 percent of Republicans approve of the bill strongly, which is remarkable for something that all but 20 House Republicans signed off on.

Another ominous sign for the GOP's 2018 election hopes is the disapproval among independents, who oppose the bill 60 percent to 18 percent. Nearly half (48 percent) disapprove strongly, while just 9 percent approve strongly. Again, that's 5-to-1 against on the enthusiasm measure.

It's possible that this poll winds up being worse than others for the bill. But unless the poll is vastly skewed, this bill is a political loser the likes of which we've rarely seen pass any chamber of Congress.

This bill, of course, will change as the Senate takes it up. And it seemed the goal for the House was more to pass something to move the process forward than anything else.

But this is the framework under which the Senate process begins. This is the bill the American people are familiar with right now, and convincing them that any updates are going to be marked improvements is going to be hugely difficult.

In a lot of ways, this was predictable. Obamacare is something of an entitlement program, in that it provides subsidies and benefits for Americans that they didn't have before — things such as the mandate for covering preexisting conditions. Messing with those government benefits is hugely difficult politically, because it means taking something away from people.

Even against the backdrop, though, Obamacare was broadly unpopular for years. And Republicans won elections on their promises to repeal it. Now they're tasked with making good on that promise, and the American people want almost nothing to do with the alternative the GOP is offering.

I'm as dubious as anybody else about Congress actually succeeding — passing something through the Senate and then reaching a compromise that both chambers will approve of.

And looking at these numbers, it's hard to see why any Republican thinks it's a good idea to press forward.