Just before the AHCA vote on Friday, Speaker Paul Ryan yanked the bill from the floor knowing he didn’t have the necessary votes for passage. It is a stinging failure for Ryan’s first legislative effort with a Republican in the White House and at the moment, leaves Obamacare fully intact.
Donald Trump tried to put a good spin on it, blaming Democrats and talking as though he was happy they gave it the old “college try.” Naturally, he tried to deflect any blame away from himself:
"I never said 'Repeal and replace Obamacare.' You've all heard my speeches. I never said repeal & replace it within 64 days," Trump in Oval.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) March 24, 2017
His explanation is absurd. Trump gives himself the “64 days” qualifier so he can rate his BS statement as “true.” The fact is, Trump tweeted many times his desire to “immediately” repeal and replace Obamacare. Here is an example from February of 2016:
We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare – and nobody can do that like me. We will save $'s and have much better healthcare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2016
Naturally, plenty of people tried to blame the House Freedom Caucus. Among them, political pundit, Brit Hume:
The blame is on the Freedom Caucus & Sens. Lee, Cruz & Paul, who once more want to lead Congressional GOP to another political dead-end. https://t.co/NNzvRxCiaL
— Brit Hume (@brithume) March 24, 2017
Hume’s argument in a word is idiotic. The House Freedom Caucus was not demanding full repeal or else (despite promising that to constituents). The HFC wanted two items in the House bill – the removal of the “essential health benefits” mandate. These include services insurance companies are required to cover by law. They include emergency-room visits and hospital stays, but also include mental health, maternity, preventive care and prescription drug coverage. Most people will never utilize those features, and it will only boost premiums. Without them, people have the option of buying low-cost catastrophic plans. They also wanted the removal of the continuous coverage mandate. It’s the Obama individual mandate wrapped in other packaging.
Thankfully, Hume did recognize Trumpers were up to their usual tricks, absolving Trump of all blame:
Trump backers saying he's really not responsible re: AHCA are, in effect, saying he's a dope taken in by evil Svengali Paul Ryan. Ridiculous
— Brit Hume (@brithume) March 24, 2017
It is ridiculous but then again, so are Hume and Fred Barnes attempting to pin the blame on the House Freedom Caucus. So who is to blame?
1. President Donald Trump – Whether people like it or not, Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. A focal point during his campaign, Trump slammed Obamacare any chance he got. He repeatedly called it a “disaster.” Unfortunately, he also made promises about “everybody” having coverage without ever offering a plan on how to do it. Trump’s single biggest problem is one I’ve spoken of before. He has no ideological core. His opposition to Obamacare centers around being anti-Obama and not an understanding of Obamacare’s faults. He can’t articulate why he’s opposed to it. He also cannot adequately explain his support of the AHCA. Trump touted his business acumen as a reason he’d get things done. Proclaiming himself King Dealmaker, he was going to make the deals other people could not. Put that coffee down, Mr. President. Coffee is for closers.
2. Speaker Paul Ryan – I feel sorry for Paul Ryan. I like the guy. I think he has integrity and taking a position nobody else wanted epitomizes what it means to be a leader. Still, he screwed the pooch on this one. The main issue with Ryan is his desire to get something passed and get it done fast instead of taking the time to work his caucus ad secure the votes. Jay Cost of The Weekly Standard tweeted several thoughts on it:
I heard a lot of this throughout the day. It was stunning. For seven years we were told (often by the same people) that Obama repeal wasn’t possible without a GOP majority. Not just a Congressional majority but the White House as well were both necessary to repeal Obamacare. Now that the GOP has that majority, many of the same people are arguing full repeal isn’t possible because it risks the majority.
The only good that comes from pulling the bill is the ability for Ryan and company to step back, reassess and get back to the drawing board. Work members of the caucus, meet with Senators and put together legislation that will fulfill the promises made to constituents and get to President Trump’s desk for signing.
The leaders should lead.