Congress will head home for the July 4th recess without having passed a single major piece of legislation. Worse, there’s no repeal of Obamacare. There isn’t even a healthcare bill that passed, and the fate of that legislation is still up in the air. Worse, Republicans handled it all so ineptly they’ve already lost the political battle to the Democrats who were ready. The GOP, led by President Donald Trump, floundered.
Make no mistake, Donald Trump as the de facto leader of the Republican Party shoulders most of the blame for this fiasco. People can wail all they want about Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. To be sure, they share in plenty of the blame, but it was President Trump who campaigned as a Democrat in 2015 and 2016 promising not to touch entitlements including Medicaid.
The debate over whether or not the Republicans are “cutting” Medicaid in their healthcare bills is one in which the GOP faces a hostile press that uses the term “cut” even though Medicaid spending increases every year under their plan. Critics say the growth the GOP projects will not be enough to cover necessary expenses in the future and therefore it is a “cut.” Unfortunately, people who forecast what something costs in government have a horrendous track record and the bottom line is, when it comes to public expenditure, the recipients of those dollars always say it is never enough. That is the practical way of looking at the issue.
There is the practical way to look at what the GOP will do with Medicaid, and there is the political way to look at it. In Washington DC, being practical is a rarity. It’s almost always political, people need to be prepared, and on that front, the GOP is losing. Just to give you an idea of how GOP ineptitude is cyclical, the party is making the same mistake they made in 1995. When Republicans took over Congress for the first time in 40 years, they proposed a tax cut package as well as a budget that made reforms to Medicare. The tax cut package amounted to $250-$270 billion. The changes to Medicare would have saved $270 billion. Democrats, led by Bill Clinton made their case to the country that Republicans wanted to “destroy” Medicare to pay for tax cuts for “the wealthy.” Bill Clinton threatened a veto. Newt Gingrich believed Clinton was bluffing. Clinton vetoed the budget bill, the government shut down, and President Clinton was well on his way to an easy re-election in 1996.
The current healthcare bill, according to the CBO, “cuts” Medicaid by about $800 billion over the next decade. The GOP tax proposal amounts to about $1 trillion over the next ten years. There you have it. It is a trigger for Democrats and the media to argue the GOP is “cutting healthcare for the poor” to “pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.” Watching this unfold, it’s like a real-life version of Groundhog Day, only the song playing over and over again each morning is Beck’s “Loser.”
Soy un perdedor, baby.
Watching the Republican Party make the same mistakes over and over for the last 25 years, astounds me. It’s as though they set themselves up in front of archery targets and when the arrows start flying, they act as though they didn’t see them coming. Despite being handed a golden opportunity and a President who will sign anything given to him, the GOP is screwing it up because they lack any vision. David Brooks’ editorial in the New York Times yesterday contained a lot of unnecessary hyperbole such as “throwing 22 million people off the insurance rolls.” But there is one passage where he nails down what is wrong with the Republican Party:
The current Republican Party has iron, dogmatic rules about the role of government, but no vision about America. Because Republicans have no governing vision, they can’t really replace the Obama vision with some alternative. They just accept the basic structure of Obamacare and cut it back some.
He’s not wrong. What Republicans have proposed is not a repeal of Obamacare. It’s not even a replacement. It’s a restructuring of how Obamacare works. Forget about an attempt at a free-market solution or something such as what the American Enterprise Institute suggested. They’ve offered a “solution” that solves nothing.
Republicans also failed to take the time to sell a reform package to the public. Obamacare as a whole is a disaster. Coverage options are shrinking every year. Premiums are increasing, and for many people, they’ll never get past their high deductibles before their plan pays a portion of their medical expenses. There are numerous horror stories about Obamacare the GOP can sell the public to show them what crapfest it has become.
Republicans have even managed to screw that up. For the first time since the Kaiser Family Foundation polled the public on Obamacare, more than 50 percent of Americans now view it favorably than unfavorably.
Republicans in Congress are not getting any help from President Trump. Outside of being reminded of his promises on the campaign trail, he cannot articulate what it is that he wants in the bill and as we’ve seen, he’s not concerned about throwing people under the bus at any point. Trump went from praising the House version of the bill to calling it “mean” and publicly saying he wanted to “throw more money” at the legislation. It is a direct result of something I’ve said about Trump in the past. He has no ideological core. He just wants a “win.” At this point, signing anything is a “win” in his book regardless if the bill is a steaming pile of crap or not.
Also, it doesn’t help that America First Policies, a pro-Trump group was running ads against a Republican, Dean Heller for his opposition to the bill. Those jokers were going to buy ad time to go after other Senators including Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul. The tactic prompted a call from Mitch McConnell to Reince Priebus saying what Trump’s sycophants were doing is “beyond stupid.” Remember Trump bragging about his dealmaking skills? He can’t even make deals within his party. Brilliant.
What people are witnessing is a screwup of epic proportions and Republicans may not recover from this debacle. And they have nobody to blame but themselves.