The recent failure of the Republican U.S. house majority to
pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care
Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, has seen a
predictable public reaction. It was welcomed understandably
by Democrats who enacted and still favor Obamacare, and by
the establishment media who are hostile to President Trump
and heralded the failure as a “political catastrophe” for the
new president and his party (which now controls both the
White House and the two houses of Congress.) The failure was
also criticized by many, including myself, as a missed
opportunity to fulfill a top campaign promise made by most of
the Republican party candidates since 2010 --- responding to
the extraordinary unpopularity of the legislation passed when
the Democrats controlled the presidency and the Congress.
In my own criticism, I acknowledged that the legislation
fashioned by Speaker Paul Ryan and his colleagues was
imperfect, but I suggested that the so-called “Freedom Caucus”
faction in the U.S. house was ultimately being obstructionist.
In the end, the legislation was unacceptable not only to the
Freedom Caucus, but also to the more moderate house members.
Importantly, Speaker Ryan persuaded President Trump not to
demand a vote --- so that the legislation remains alive for further
modification and negotiation, possibly bringing in some
moderate Democrats (if necessary) to vote for it later in the year.
The key here is that Obamacare repeal is far from “dead,” and the
unfolding implosion of the ACA law and program (the true
disaster in this matter) will continue.
The recent effort by Speaker Ryan was a short-term failure, but
by no credible means the “disaster” now being heralded in the
hostile establishment media. In fact, it might have been a
political blessing in disguise for both the speaker and the White
House if they use the occasion to continue their legislative
program efforts more realistically and more effectively.
Major legislation in the U.S. is always complicated and
problematic as it makes its way through Congress to the desk of
a president for signature. There was clearly some overconfidence
by the house leadership in this legislative effort, and hopefully
this will not be repeated as it debates the next priority (and
campaign promise), tax reform. It also does not let the Freedom
Caucus off the political hook. They now see the damage and the
ammunition for the opposition a legislative failure can produce.
The first order of business now is the confirmation of Judge
Gorsuch to the U.S. supreme court. The next order of business
is tax reform legislation that will pass both the U.S. house and
senate. Healthcare insurance repeal and replacement can easily
be revisited (though perhaps not so easily resolved) later in the
year. President Trump, his comments on Twitter notwithstanding,
continues to change the political climate in Washington, DC and
in our foreign policy.
Mistakes and missteps will continue to happen. The exercise of
the people’s business in our republic is always a bit messy
because it is not resolved by measures which every voter agrees
with. It is, if you will, part of the deal. Through the electoral
process, the voters express themselves, and in 2016, they did so.
As always, the voters’ will was divided, but by electing a president,
both houses of Congress, most governors and most state
legislatures of the same party, they expressed general agreement
with that party’s program and promises. This mandate is not
timeless or even open-ended. It has perhaps only a two year limit.
This is where we are now. As I have been suggesting, it’s time
for action and results. More stalemate is not an option.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.