Benjamin Franklin, an early proponent of mutual insurance, was famous for saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This principal of prevention could be easily adapted and applied to the current Congressional gridlock over repealing Obamacare. Using the same structure as Franklin’s truism, I would tell Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell that “an ounce of inclusion is worth pounds of outreach.” The pattern that has emerged in both the House and Senate Republican Caucuses has revealed a fundamental problem: Congressional leadership and rank-and-file members are not in sync.
Obamacare repeal packages have now been pulled from the floor before a vote in both chambers of Congress. This is an embarrassment for conservatives who want to repeal Obamacare, and it tarnishes the image of Republicans as a party capable of responsible government. Democrats are emboldened by the circus surrounding an Obamacare repeal, and they are increasingly convinced that the moment is shifting in their favor. Congressional Republicans and the President desperately need a victory on healthcare, and the current strategy clearly is not working.
Congress basically operates like a giant pyramid scheme of power; leadership controls the agenda, writes major legislation, and whips the votes for passage. The very definition of a pyramid scheme is a business model through which new members are recruited through the promise of rewards for enrolling others into the scheme, instead of actually delivering products or services. This definition has become largely applicable to Congress; those in leadership trade on promises of reward and threats of retribution to obtain votes, but do very little to craft quality legislation that addresses real issues. In order to put-together passable bills that address serious problems, the pyramid of power must be inverted.
Instead of legislation beginning behind closed doors in the Speaker’s office, or in the conference room of the Majority Leader, the legislative process should begin at the caucus level. This means that Republican leaders should meet with their entire caucus to craft a legislative solution that has the votes to pass before ever finalizing a package to be sent to the floor for a vote. This strategy will help avoid the embarrassing displays of impotence we have witnessed in the House and Senate regarding Obamacare repeal legislation. By building consensus on the front-end of the legislative process, leadership strong-arming and cajoling members into voting for a watered-down version of a bill will be a thing of the past.
Republican leadership must stop handing-down their version of bills, crafted behind closed doors, and then expecting duly elected members of Congress to blindly vote for their version. A little servant leadership and consensus building will go a long way toward reenergizing the conservative movement before we completely lose momentum on Capitol Hill. In order to finalize the repeal of Obamacare this summer, the entire Senate Republican Caucus should meet as a body and come-up with a solution that actually repeals Obamacare, and has the necessary votes to pass. A conference committee between the House and the Senate should then quickly reconcile the two versions, and get something on President Trump’s desk before kids go back to school this fall.
Anything short of repealing Obamacare this summer will likely spell disaster for Republican majorities being reelected next November. That is something that conservatives, and the country, literally cannot afford.