They came. They saw. They fell flat on their faces.
Republicans, with Trump in the White House and a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), a goal they have pursued with a zeal and persistence of a stalker since the law was enacted seven years ago.
On Thursday, the President tried to bully recalcitrant members of his own party into approving a bill that would repeal Obamacare and replace it with almost nothing. It didn’t work.
Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, was unable to muster the votes. The main reason is that Ryan was not able to convince his most extremists members, the “Freedom Caucus” spawned by the Tea Party movement of a few years ago, to support the legislation.
It was a battle of wills between those who wanted to water down health insurance for millions of Americans to a thin gruel (Ryan) and those who wanted to do away with the whole thing (the Freedom Caucus). In this battle of the mean-spirited and the ultra-mean spirited misers, the meanest won and the bill lost.
The biggest losers were Trump and Ryan. In his campaign, Trump promised repeal of Obamacare as his first and most important legislative goal. He failed. After two months of one debacle after another, one outrageous lie after another, Trump needed this win to show he could govern. He still hasn’t. Now his record-low public approval numbers likely will sink further.
Trump was visibly chagrined at the outcome and furious at rebellious Republicans. Unable to face reality or admit defeat, however, he resorted to dissembling. “The best that could happen is exactly what happened—watch,” he said in a phone interview just after Ryan threw in the towel and withdrew the legislation. Funny, that’s exactly the opposite of what photos of Trump and Pence conveyed. A picture is worth a thousand words, and Trump is a liar a thousand times over. But the images didn’t lie.
The most pathetic part of Trump’s reaction was his whining at not getting a single vote “from the other side.” Trump has the gall to try to ram an abomination of a bill contrary to the values of the Democrats down their throats and then complain that they gave him no support. It’s analogous to a rapist who complains he was forced to kill his victim because she resisted.
The outcome also was an especially bitter blow for Ryan. For years, Ryan had crusaded against Obamacare. The circumstances after the Democratic debacle in November could not have looked more promising for the Speaker to finally fulfill his wish. It was the biggest test for Ryan as a leader and he flunked miserably.
Ryan had reached the top of the Republican heap without ever having passed any significant legislation of his own. Now he was forced to admit that “Obamacare is the law of the land” and that we will have Obamacare with us for a while. It may be a puerile emotion, but I am human, and I admit got great satisfaction watching this obnoxious Republican pseudo-whiz kid forced to eat manure.
In the aftermath of the downfall of the GOP project to destroy Obamacare, Republican factions and individuals are engaged in a vicious civil war, one especially damaging politically for people who rode to victory on the pledge to “fix Washington” and have managed instead to create a bigger mess and wreck their own party in the bargain.
I can’t help saying it: It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.
I say that because the non-partisan, objective analysis of the Congressional Budget Office found that repeal would eventually cause 24 million people to lose their health insurance. It would cost a substantial number of Americans their lives. Others would face bankruptcy and severe economic deprivation to afford the astronomical price of “market based” health insurance. Many people would live lives of fear and anxiety, and ironically the Republican “replacement” wouldn’t even cover mental health.
Some nice guys.
The Trump/Ryan health care law was a disaster from every angle, bad policy, ignoble, just plain wrong. I rejoice in its demise.
But let’s not let our guard down for a second. Trump’s Plan B is even more malevolent than Plan A. He says we should let “Obamacare explode.” What he and other Republicans who say Obamacare will inevitably go into a “death spiral” mean is that they will do everything they can to make it explode and nothing to prevent it from going into a “death spiral.” Then they can blame Obama and design failures in the program when people begin to lose health coverage.
There is nothing inevitable about Obamacare exploding or going into a death spiral. The program has expanded greatly after a rocky start and has produced a record-low percentage of uninsured Americans. There is nothing in Obamacare that can’t be fixed and even improved relatively easily. Of course, a single-payer system, such as Medicare for all, would be vastly better. But Obamacare was the biggest step in the right direction that could be taken at that the time given the resistance of vested corporate interests and their toadies in Congress.
Trump and the Republicans wanted to execute Obamacare but instead they organized themselves into a circular firing squad. Long may they bleed.