For all practical purposes, Obamacare, and all its ills, should be dead, strangled by House Republicans focused on repealing and replacing one of the most despised pieces of Democratic legislation in recent years.
But, and pardon the tortured mix of metaphor, Republicans had the ball in their court, for seven years now, and fumbled it — most spectacularly on Friday. That’s when their controversial bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, failed to win the necessary 216 votes to pass. House Speaker Paul Ryan recommended pulling it. President Trump, the biggest loser, agreed. The bill, a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign and that of scores of new Republican lawmakers, went down. Obamacare rules — until Republicans get serious.
That’s great news for millions of Americans, and Floridians especially. The bill would have left almost 2 million state residents without health insurance and forced many others to pay thousands more for coverage. Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told her local constituents she would vote No, while her more cowed Miami colleagues kept mumbling about having to study the situation.
As for Trump? “Obamacare is imploding and soon will explode” he blared. (It won’t.) “Democrats will get all the blame.” (They shouldn’t. Don’t fall for it.)
It was another touching show of his sympathy for the millions of Americans, including so many of his supporters, who would have gotten caught in that mess.
It was so much easier when Republicans could unite against the common enemy of anything Obama. But they made a huge political miscalculation. They were vociferous. They were resolute. Ultimately, they were clueless. Well, their constituents, many getting preventive care for the first time, or prenatal care, or cancer treatments clued them in: Obamacare, for all its faults, was working for them.
Ryan finally — finally — stated the obvious: “Doing big things is hard.” (We’re suppressing a “Duh!”) And it’s especially difficult when you leave out preparation and inclusiveness to meet a long-touted promise.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus held other Republicans hostage by voting No on the healthcare bill and refusing to budge. Their goal is not to repeal and replace, just repeal. They didn’t care that the president was truly counting on them.
Basically, Republicans have met the enemy and, now that they hold the House, the Senate, and the White House, it is them.
Trump, the master dealmaker says he, could not seal this deal. This was a learning experience in loyalty and getting votes in Congress, he said. And, ironically, Vice President Pence, Trump’s Washington insider, failed to win him the votes of those renegade Republicans.
It’s not a lesson about loyalty. If that were the case, Republicans would have fallen in line after the president’s thuggish threat to go after anyone who didn’t vote Yes. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be about giving Americans a better healthcare deal. With millions of fearful Obamacare enrollees riled up, lawmakers would rather take their chances in two years running against anyone foolish enough to campaign on getting rid of Obamacare.
Trump is racking up the losses. The courts have smacked down two travel bans. If anyone pays for that wall it will be Americans. And now Obamacare.
It’s most unfortunate that the president is acting like he’s a spectator in these defeats — and not the architect.