Where in this world does one start to sort through the wreckage created by the Republican failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with … something else?
Most of know the story by now. Donald J. Trump got elected president and promised to “repeal and replace” the ACA. Congressional Republicans, having retained control of both legislative chambers, finally had a president on their side. Repeal and replacement were slam dunks.
Or so they thought.
Then they cobbled together something that didn’t pass conservative and progressive muster. They couldn’t round up the votes to repeal the ACA, let alone approve something called the American Health Care Act.
Arm-twisting, threats and last-second negotiation resulted in the president’s first major legislative failure. House Speaker Paul Ryan — a partner with the president on this fiasco — canceled the vote today.
Lessons learned here? Let’s take a peek at some of them.
* Trump bitched today at the White House that he had “no Democrat votes.” Really! He said that out loud to a room full of “enemy of the people” reporters. Well, irony apparently isn’t something that’s on Trump’s radar. President Obama didn’t have a single Republican vote when he got Congress to enact the ACA in 2010; but he damn sure tried to get some GOP support.
* Trump campaigned for the presidency on his record as a take-no-prisoners business mogul. He had no public service experience prior to running for president. His whole adult life had been geared toward personal enrichment. Then he discovered something about politics: It is that politicians have their own constituencies to worry about. If the voters who elect them don’t like what they’re doing, they have this annoying habit of voting them out of office.
Congressional Republicans didn’t like the AHCA because their voters back home didn’t like it. Do you get that, Mr. President? Your Republican colleagues don’t work for you; they work for the citizens in their congressional districts and in their states.
This ain’t reality TV, Mr. President. Politics is practiced by those who know what the hell they’re doing. Just because you’re the president doesn’t mean you get your way whenever you demand something of others.
* The ACA isn’t perfect. I’ll concede that along with anyone with half a brain. But as Speaker Ryan conceded today, it is “the law of the land.” Here’s a thought for the speaker and for the president: Why not try to tinker with the ACA? Fix what’s most egregiously wrong with it. If premiums are costing too much, find a method to cap them. If Americans are having trouble finding medical care within certain networks, find a way to streamline the process.
Throwing out a landmark health insurance overhaul simply because it was the creation of a president from the “other” party isn’t smart. What’s more, the ACA is patterned after a plan adopted in Massachusetts, which at the time was governed by a real Republican, Mitt Romney; you remember him, correct? The ACA in fact has Gov. Romney’s fingerprints all over it.
Ryan said today that “doing big things is hard.” No kidding, Mr. Speaker. Barack Obama learned that lesson, too. Indeed, as Vice President Joe Biden once said, “This is a big f****** deal.”
So … the Affordable Care Act remains on the books. Now the president and Congress can turn their attention to something else.
I just hope there aren’t more screw-ups on the horizon.