Republicans Abandon Repeal and Replace Effort
Corey Uhden, Politics Contributor
Republicans, at President Trump’s request, have decided to abandon their efforts to pass the American Health Care Act, effectively walking away from the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously.
There was nothing unusual about Republicans scheduling to vote on a bill, even one as consequential as their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and then delaying when it became clear that more negotiations would be necessary. They wouldn’t have the votes Thursday night, the seventh anniversary of the House’s passage of the law that would come to be known as Obamacare, and there was no indication they’d have the votes Friday either. The past weeks had been marked by multiple rounds of negotiation with members of the moderate Tuesday Group and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. The manager’s amendment, the only amendment by which members could alter the bill before voting on it, included prizes for both groups - $85 billion in additional aid for older Americans was added as a ploy to placate the moderates and the stripping of essential health benefits was meant to please conservatives. In the middle of the negotiations, Senator Mike Lee of Utah lobbed in a hand grenade when he announced that he had spoken with the Senate parliamentarian and believed that stripping regulations could, in fact, survive the scrutiny of the reconciliation process. Senator Rand Paul, perhaps the bill’s fiercest opponent, backed him up and the White House relented. It all pointed to the clear truth that rushing this was entirely unnecessary. Further exploration could produce a better bill, and potentially one that could pass both chambers of Congress.
Despite all this, President Trump chose to issue to an ultimatum as Republicans gathered in the basement of the Capitol. Word was out immediately: Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and a chief architect of the bill, told members that the president is finished negotiating, “take it or leave it.” It was straight out of Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal: “the best deals you can make are the ones you walk away from.” “Know when to walk away from the table.” Congress was prepared to go back-and-forth negotiating on this complicated issue in the coming months but Trump got tired of hearing some of the same people making the same complaints. Does it matter that “leave it,” meant leaving Obamacare in place as it rapidly descends into a death spiral? That was the point, Mulvaney said. Members could either stand by the president on this, nothing more than a procedural vote, or accept Obamacare despite how many times that they had pledged to repeal the disastrous law.
The moment of truth drew near and then word hit the wire again: President Trump had requested that the Speaker of the House pull the bill before the anticipated vote. Speaker Ryan had briefed the White House earlier in the afternoon, offering a “frank” assessment on passage and advised the president to abandon the vote. He had tried a move straight out of The Art of the Deal and wound up bending to conventional wisdom, and predictable politics.
Has President Trump discovered that making real estate deals is different than passing consequential legislation? This is a republic, after all, of co-equal branches and no president gets to run roughshod over the elected members of Congress. To their credit, most Republicans negotiated in good faith and most Republicans, the vast majority, were prepared to follow the leadership in voting for a flawed, but pragmatic, proposal that represented the best chance to repeal and replace a law that has proven disastrous in design and reckless in practice. Trump tired of the negotiation, however, and decided it would be best to abandon the effort to repeal and replace it simultaneously
Greg Walden, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a chief architect of the American Health Care Act pronounced “this bill is dead” from the House floor. Ryan struck a conciliatory tone in an afternoon press conference. Trump took the chance to stake out his ground in the circular firing squad by blaming Democrats and pointing to the “exploding” of Obamacare, and the Democrats declared “victory for the American people.”
For all intents and purposes, the Republicans have failed in their attempt at a health care do-over.
You can follow the author on Twitter @CACoreyU
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