by: Kevin W.
On Friday, the Republican party’s efforts to repeal Obamacare failed in embarrassingly public fashion. Despite a late push from President Trump to convince Republicans to vote in favor of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the bill was pulled from consideration late Friday afternoon due to a lack of support in the House of Representatives. Trump, who could have used a political win after weeks of bad press, was instead dealt the biggest failure of his young presidency.
Mr. Trump, and many other Republicans, campaigned on promises to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a better system that increased coverage and lowered premiums. With Republicans stating that health care reform will no longer be a priority during this congressional session, Trump is saddled with a failure to deliver. Will that broken promise hurt him with his voter base in the long run? Probably not. Many supporters will chalk the failure up to his short time in office. And while a subset of his supporters will continue to hate Obamacare based on party lines, the truth is the law has helped millions of Americans gain access to health care – including many that voted for Trump. If health care fades from the national debate, many will simply be happy to have coverage and will shift their focus to new topics.
While that broken promise itself may not hurt Trump, his image as a winner, arguably his favorite characteristic, took a major hit. The man who prides himself as a deal maker just couldn’t close in his first major test. Instead, Trump received another in an increasing line of reality checks on the legislative process, this time courtesy of his own party.
In the lead up to the planned vote, Trump met with Republicans to garner support with a not-so-subtle message: vote yes or face repercussions in next year’s midterm elections. But that warning fell on deaf ears, as did direct threats from the president that he would “come after” those who voted against the bill. He even threatened to walk away from health care policy entirely if Republicans didn’t fall in line. But House Republicans called his bluff and stood their ground. Many argued that the bill didn’t go far enough towards repealing Obamacare, while others planned to vote no after feeling pressure from constituents worried about losing coverage. Sure, during the election Republicans may have gotten behind Trump based on his promise to support a conservative agenda, but House members just proved they fear voters more than they fear the president. And rightfully so; it’s the voters, not Trump, who can fire them. Trump’s intimidation tactics may have worked in the business world, but in politics there is little reason for Republicans to take Trump’s methods seriously.
After the bill was pulled, Trump sounded weary of the debate, saying, “it’s enough already.” If the short-lived discussion over health care was too much for him, he may be in for a rude awakening when it comes to passing other reforms. (In contrast, the initial fight to pass Obamacare took over a year.) Trump seems eager only for quick wins and unwilling to put the time and effort in when the lawmaking process becomes difficult. As he (in)famously asked, “who knew health care could be so complicated?” Everyone did- except for him.
Ironically, Donald Trump is a man who likes to call out others’ “failures” but his first attempt at pushing through a major piece of legislation can only be described as such. Whether he likes it or not, Trump promised a better health care system that would provide more choice and cover more Americans with lower premiums. He should own that promise and any inability to follow through. If the past is any indication, however, he will blame the bill’s defeat on everyone but himself. Already, Trump has chosen the low road rather than using the experience as a growth opportunity. Trump spun the defeat as “the best thing that could happen” to the bill, explaining that he expects Obamacare to “explode” and when it does he believes Democrats will come crawling back begging for a compromise. In a move beyond reason, he also blamed Democrats for not showing support for the bill, despite the party not being invited to the negotiating table. According to reports, Trump even wanted to punish his own party by holding the vote despite evidence it could not pass. That way, lawmakers would be forced to publicly tie their names to their opposition and the bill’s overall failure.
That type of pettiness has no place in a debate where peoples’ lives are literally at stake. Republicans had the last seven years to dream up a replacement for Obamacare and their proposal fell spectacularly short of Trump’s promises. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 24 million Americans would lose their insurance under the Republican’s plan. If that is the best they can come up with, then they certainly have their work cut out for them.
Does Obamacare as it currently stands have its flaws? Absolutely. Premiums have continued their pre-Obamacare rise and some insurers have pulled out of the exchanges entirely leaving some areas with few options for coverage. So instead of pointing fingers, Trump would be better served trying to unite his party to provide genuine improvements to the law. In an ideal world, he’d even reach out across the aisle for help. In turn, Democrats should welcome any suggestions that would both lower premiums and expand coverage. Trump should recognize that health care is a bipartisan concern and use this experience to grow as a leader. Compromise can be had, but unless Trump changes his “you’re wrong and only I can fix this” strategy, he will continue to fail.