It’s HARD to overstate the significance of the Republican House’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
It’s EASY to overstate the significance of the Republican House’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Let’s take a look at why I offer both of these assertions — and where we go from here as effective progressives.
Health-Repeal Failure Is a Game-Changer
There’s no doubt that the inability of the Republicans to muster enough votes to repeal “Obamacare” knocks the winds out of their sails and does massive damage to the entire Republican/White House agenda. Consider:
- We did it. This victory probably would never have happened without the huge outpouring of hundreds of thousands of opponents, including at Congressional “town-hall” meetings across the country earlier this month. Today’s result has vindicated the Indivisible strategy written up by former Democratic Congressional staffers, modeled on the success of the Tea Party in recent years, and it has shown that the massive upsurge in citizen activism starting with the Women’s Marches on Jan. 21 and continuing ever since can be translated into political success.
- The Republicans have made repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) their top priority, and have run on that issue every election, winning control of Congress and ultimately the White House with a promise to “repeal and replace” the health law as their first action. With unified control of the government, intensive arm-twisting by their leadership, secretive drafting of the legislation with Democrats locked out of the legislative process, a rushed calendar that allowed almost no time for consideration of the ramifications or for opposition to gel (so they thought), and a legislative process that made the Democrats unable to stop the law, they still failed. House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team appear ineffectual and incompetent. Moreover, in the process they have created deep rifts between themselves, the “Freedom Caucus” of far-right Republican legislators, and the “Tuesday Group” of less-extreme Republicans. This dramatic failure made it clear there is nothing for members to gain by risking their political necks for Ryan and may have dealt a mortal blow to House Republicans’ ability to come together around anything.
- The president dove all in on this fight, putting his reputation as Dealmaker-in-Chief on the line. Not only did he come up short; his efforts backfired. Before he started giving away the store to the far right of his party, the Republicans were short about six votes, with four more wavering; by the time the vote was canceled they were down by at least 16. Each concession to the extremists lost other members’ support without ever bringing the far-right faction on board. The fiction of Mr. T. as the brilliant negotiator was a large reason why he got into office; now he will be seen as a fraud by at least some of those who have stuck by him this long.
- The bill was so draconian, so cruel, so indefensible even before the latest negotiations made it much worse that some of the president’s biggest supporters had already turned against him, convinced that his promises of good health care for everyone were nothing but empty promises to get votes. Take the tragic story of Kraig Moss, who “sold the equipment for his construction business in upstate New York and stopped making mortgage payments so he could follow Donald Trump on the campaign trail,” attending 45 rallies, as CNN reported. After losing his 24-year-old son to heroin three years ago, Moss was drawn in by the candidate’s vow to increase addiction treatment services. But after the Republican bill was released, removing the requirement for health insurance to cover such treatment, Moss concluded the candidate was just making empty promises to get elected. As the White House and Republicans continued to push a bill that had twice as much opposition as support among the public, they did further damage to their standing with the voters. →