Saturday, March 25, 2017

My thoughts on the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare...

House Speaker Paul Ryan. Via

Well, it's official. The repeal and replace bill for Obamacare is DOA. Speaker Paul Ryan was unable to heard the cats in the GOP and get fiscal conservatives on his side and the bill appears to be dead. Since the GOP has run on a repeal and replace plan this is a major blow to them and to everyone that wanted Obamacare gone. 

The main problem is that the GOP is split between fiscal conservatives and those that emphasized the "replace" over the "repeal". Paul Ryan was somehow able to get President Donald Trump to go along with him and the replace faction but he wasn't able to get the fiscal conservatives of the Freedom Caucus to agree with him. With the bill DOA in Congress and dead in the Senate as well, we have lost our last best chance to repeal Obamacare with the current makeup of Congress. 

Personally, I don't think it effects me either way. I get my insurance through work and I have for years. Not much would have changed between the status quo ante of Obamacare or the repeal and replace "Ryancare" or, less accurately, "Trumpcare". I think that my rates would have gone up either way but I am certainly not an expert on health care. My main focus on this is the political aspect of this failure. 

First of all, there are going to be a lot of people extremely angry that nothing was done here. The GOP controls the House, Senate, presidency and will soon control the Supreme Court. The GOP is more powerful then it has been in years and that is due in no small part to the people furious with Obamacare who expected something to be done. I mean, how much more power do they need before they can do anything about the issue? If we get them to 60+ seats in the Senate, past the filibuster threshold, will they do anything then? I am guessing it's not likely, and I think a lot of the rank and file GOP voters will agree. 

This could have an effect on the 2018 mid term elections. Though I doubt many of the people that hate Obamacare would ever vote for a Democrat there is a real concern that they might stay home during the 2018 election. After all, they may have been disillusioned by this failure and are demoralized and disgusted by their leaders. 

I'm not sure I buy it. For one, there are a lot of GOP voters like me that don't really care about health care either way. As someone in my mid thirties with no health problems, I don't even think about health care and don't vote because of it. Status quo, repeal and replace, just repeal or even single payer, it wouldn't effect me much. I vote GOP because of gun rights and foreign policy and opposition to progressivism, not because of health care, and I doubt I am alone on that. 

And let's not forget that this bill would have infuriated the fiscal conservative wing of the GOP. They want a full repeal of the bill and are pushing for a return to policies set in place before Obamacare was a thing. To them, the bill didn't go anywhere far enough and didn't fix the problems they had with health care and they too might have been disillusioned if this bill had passed. It may even have split the party even more than it is now! 

I also think there is a sizable minority of rank and file Republicans that like Obamacare or at least have become dependent on it. I don't know any of them myself, but I think if any of these people that used Obamacare suddenly had it taken away or changed significantly to their detriment, they would be furious as well. It's hard to get a good number on how many people would be effected and would lose coverage because the issue has been so politicized. but kicking them off of Obamacare would both push some of them into the Democrats fold. Not to mention that doing so would have an energizing effect on the base of the Democratic Party, who are also very likely to use Obamacare. 

I really think this is a lose lose lose situation for all involved. Nobody comes out looking good, not even the Democrats. After all, if and when Obamacare fails, they can't really run on the fact that the GOP screwed things up. The failure to replace Obamacare means that the Democrats still own it. Obamacare was left alone and you can't really energize your base when you are running on a platform that is already failing. In some ways this hurts them as much as it hurts the GOP because no matter what happens, they have ownership of Obamacare. 

The GOP looks pretty bad here as well. The factional infighting here might cause some hurt feelings and this will distract from the rest of their agenda. The fact that nobody was able to come up with a plan when the one thing that all GOP voters can agree on is that healthcare is a mess is, quite frankly, extremely frustrating. There is the perception, one that I share, that the GOP spends far too much time fighting each other in purity spirals about who the bigger conservatives are instead of actually fighting the Democrats. If it wasn't for the fact that the Democrats themselves are stuck in the same spiral between progressives and "neo-liberals" the GOP would be screwed. I personally find it rather distasteful and hate all the infighting on the issue.

Donald Trump can't be happy either. He ran on a platform of repealing and replacing Obamacare and he is going to have a difficult time explaining to voters why it didn't happen. I do think that he is in a better position then the media would make him out to be though. Not only did one of his main rivals, Paul Ryan, get utterly humiliated, he also has the option of reaching out for a more bipartisan solution. Some are saying that was his plan all along, but that seems to be giving him too much credit. I have no idea if he has a chance of succeeding, or what that solution could be, but to place all the blame for this on him is rather foolish. It's a failure for him, to be sure, but not a critical one and the media is, of course, lying to the public about the situation. 

Paul Ryan though is screwed. His entire job is to make his party agree with him in Congress and he failed miserably.  There is a very good chance that he loses his speakership for this and he may even lose his seat in Wisconsin. Remember, Paul Nehlen ran against him in the primaries on a "Trump" platform due to widespread opposition to the speaker nationally. He lost because of incumbency and the fact that his district likes him, but I am thinking that Nehlen has a much better chance this time around. Given how annoying Paul Ryan was during the election, I, for one, won't be sad to see him go, if that is what is in the cards... 

If there is one positive from this entire debacle it's this. The GOP can move on to other things. Though people will be disappointed at the failure to fix healthcare, if they can actually get some other things accomplished, like immigration and tax reform and a stronger national defense, people might not be so critical of them. Time will tell if they manage to pull that off though... 

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