The Obamacare repeal was supposed to be a bigger moment for the Trump Administration and Republican majorities. Since passage of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, conservative Republicans have used it as a rallying point for the right. The federal overreach in the healthcare market has been detrimental and thus should be repealed, with either a Republican replacement or the free market altogether.
Instead, the Republicans failed. Speaker Paul Ryan tried to rule with an iron fist like his predecessor John Boehner and failed miserably. The package advanced by party leadership was labeled “Obamacare Lite” by conservatives and libertarians who felt the legislation didn’t actually repeal Obamacare. When concerns were raised and objections made, the response was to simply get in line.
As Speaker Ryan pushed his way without compromise, President Trump attempted to intimidate and bully opposing Republicans, including the Freedom Caucus. Opposing the proposal was supposed to be a political misstep for conservatives, who were being portrayed as uncompromising purists.
The legislation, which was once guaranteed to pass by the Speaker and President, failed without even seeing the light of day. Instead of opposition being bad politics for conservatives, the proposal itself ended up being the problem for moderates.
Now given all the poor attention and bad publicity, Republicans are changing their tune. A new strategy of outreach has begun, notably with Vice President Mike Pence meeting with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus to discuss new proposals for Obamacare repeal.
But is it too little, too late?
Republicans had enormous momentum going into round one. Despite claims of popularity for Obamacare by Democrats, Republicans surged into 2017 with control of Washington D.C. The plan was to quickly repeal and replace the legislation, which would signal the unraveling of former President Barack Obama’s legacy. They had a mandate to change federal politics.
Instead of being ambitious and going big, Speaker Ryan aimed low and was underwhelming. President Trump opted for protecting Obamacare Lite instead of demanding more conservative legislation.
The end result was an out-of-touch party leadership who didn’t care about regular party members. The chance to repeal Obamacare fell apart and the Republican momentum has slowed.
Worse, Democrats have been empowered by the spectacular failure of the Republicans who failed to use their control. Obamacare continues to remain law of the land and just as they did with passage in the beginning, Democrats again won.
Will Obamacare ever get repealed at this point? Given that Republican leadership under Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump doesn’t appear to favor a more ambitious and conservative piece of legislation, it would appear that it the party won’t even try.
Is it time for new leadership? Is Speaker Ryan too much like predecessor John Boehner to successfully and effectively unite moderates, conservatives, and libertarians as a collective force for Republican change?
Speaker Ryan, President Trump, and Republicans should all continue to try, by all means. But at this point, it would seem that the fight has already been lost with a critical blunder early on.