With Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mike Lee (R-UT) releasing separate statements Monday night confirming they will not support the Senate version of Obamacare repeal and replace, the legislation was dealt a near fatal blow. The failure to rally enough senators around the Senate version – especially with deep cuts to Medicaid that will hurt millions of constituents – resulted in a quick tweet by President Trump calling for simple repeal of Obamacare with a promise to work (possibly with Democrats) to craft new legislation.
But why should anyone in this country have confidence that the current GOP leadership and President Trump can successfully accomplish something as challenging as working with Democrats to achieve something they couldn’t achieve within the Republican conference?
Here are a number of glaring reasons why this failure was not surprising and why there is so little confidence that the GOP can actually create health care legislation that serves the needs of the American people:
- Weak legislative performance – Despite control of the House, Senate, and Executive Branch, the GOP has a weak legislative record in the first six months of the Trump presidency. In fact, the New York Times in a piece today compares the legislative records of past presidents and gives the Trump White House low marks: “In fact, as he approaches six months in office on Thursday, Mr. Trump is slightly behind the lawmaking pace for the past six presidents, who as a group signed an average of 43 bills during the same period.” Many of the bills that Trump routinely touts as legislative successes are actually ceremonial or procedural. For example, one of the bills Trump signed named a federal building in Tennessee after former senator and actor Fred Thompson and another named a Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in American Samoa the Faleomavaega Eni Fa’aua’a Hunkin V.A. Clinic.
- Repeal just to repeal – The Republican leadership is motivated primarily by a desire to keep a campaign promise rather than to help Americans who need help. Keeping campaign promises is, of course, important and virtually all Republicans ran on a platform with Obamacare repeal as a significant focus. Shortly after the Senate legislation suffered its latest setback, a frustrated Newt Gingrich implored his fellow Republicans to just get anything done citing the need to perform after six months of agonizing paralysis. But the promise to spend less money on health care and achieve better and more comprehensive coverage remains much more difficult to deliver than the GOP anticipated.
- Trump supporters impacted – Trump supporters are starting to realize they will bear the brunt of repeal and that replace won’t help them do better or be better. The Senate version of the repeal bill has been polling lower than the House version and as each week progresses without a plan to replace Obamacare, it becomes clearer to even the president’s staunchest supporters that the cuts in Medicaid and Obamacare coverage will simply provide room for Republicans to provide tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.
The 43rd speaker of the House of Representatives, the legendary Sam Rayburn, is often credited with saying “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.” The Trump administration and the Republican leadership are threatening to tear down a barn that needs some fixes – but there is no clear vision for what a new barn would look like or any confidence that the Republicans have competent barn builders in their party.
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