It has been years since Republicans in Congress have been forced to govern. All of their efforts since 2009 were focused on obstructing everything that President Barack Obama wanted to accomplish. In fact that is all some of them have known since a large percentage were elected in 2010 and later.
The Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare was their main issue in 2010. So after the GOP took control of the U.S. House in 2011, Republicans wasted hundreds of hours trying to repeal it. And even when they finally got a repeal bill on President Obama’s desk, they knew he would veto it. Obstruction was all so easy and there were few consequences.
Republicans and their billionaire backers like the Koch brothers spent so much time and money denigrating Obamacare that repealing it became their leading campaign promise. Of course presidential candidate Donald Trump hopped on that band wagon effortlessly and bragged that he had a cheaper, better health care program that would cover everybody.
Well, after seven years of promises to repeal Obamacare and lying about how bad it is, Republicans finally have their chance with President Donald Trump. But lies do not translate into effective policies and they are woefully unprepared for the challenge.
Former senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who was involved in the battle over the Affordable Care Act in 2010, has been quoted regarding the Obamacare replacement as saying: “The Republicans are in an impossible position.” “Most of the people who are in opposition to this have never governed, don’t know how to govern and don’t want to govern.”
Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other conservatives have desperately tried to convince Americans that Obamacare is not only a disaster but a failing disaster. That way they can claim that any plan they devise will be an improvement. But across the country those who have benefited from Obama’s health care program and those who understand its worth don’t substantiate these claims.
No doubt Ryan knew he was in a tough spot when he started fashioning what some are calling Ryancare. He has a loose coalition of gun-rights advocates, anti-abortion evangelicals and Tea Party conservatives in his caucus. Those few moderate conservatives that still survive in the GOP really have no significant voice in Republican policies. So the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that Ryan rolled out on March 6 that was designed to fit somewhere between what ultra conservatives wanted and what the rest of the party might accept totally missed the mark.
The 40 or so members of the far right Freedom Caucus chaired by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) want Obamacare repealed with little or no tax credits and no Medicaid expansion. On the other side there are a number of Republican governors whose states expanded Medicaid and the moderate conservatives, some of them in blue districts and states. They see the downside from throwing millions of Americans back onto the ranks of the uninsured and don’t want to “own” this legislation come election time.
I don’t think Ryan knows where to turn. If he satisfies the governors and moderates, the Freedom Caucus and other far right conservatives will block the AHCA. If he yields to the repeal-or-nothing crowd, the AHCA will fail in the Senate even if it passes in the House. A number of Republican senators have already stated flatly that it won’t pass in the Senate and some probably hope it never passes in the House. What is poor Paul to do?
Well I think he has no choice but to tough it out with only minor changes like adding a work requirement for able-bodied adults who receive Medicaid. He can claim that the AHCA is the best that can be accomplished; he can tell his caucus that it’s either the AHCA or Obamacare; and he can remind them of their promise to rid the nation of government controlled health insurance. This is probably the best he can do, but will it succeed?
So what happens if the AHCA fails? Will Trump issue another executive order to insure that Obamacare implodes or direct Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price to further undermine it. Trump has stated several times that Republicans should just let Obamacare go into a death spiral and then blame the Democrats. But who except strong Trump supporters will fall for that?
And what will happen to tax reform that depends in part on repealing Obamacare taxes? After failing to replace the hated Obamacare, how hard will it be to push a massive tax cut for the wealthy through Congress?
On top of that, funding for the government runs out at the end of April and raising the debt limit (which Republicans hate) will be required before September if not earlier. Republicans have a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time but they are hung up on an Obamacare replacement by their own design.
We are almost 60 days into Trump’s chaotic administration and not much has been accomplished. Trump is spending millions of taxpayer dollars on numerous weekend ego trips to Mar-a-Lago while in Washington important government positions remain unfilled, Congress is investigating scandals involving Trump’s connections to Russia and Republicans are battling Republicans.
Will this administration and the Republican controlled Congress ever be able to get their act together and show they can govern? I don’t think they know how.