There is a schism in the Republican Party. On one side are conservatives, who believe in liberty, the free market, and the Constitution. On the other side is the Donald Trump wing, which has no guiding principles other than blind faith in Donald Trump. The schism has been evident for over a year, but papered over at times by a desire for unity. But the new proposed GOP TrumpCare bill lays bare this division.
Why do I call it TrumpCare? Because this is the bill that Donald Trump wants. Paul Ryan has said the House GOP has been working hand in glove with the Trump administration on this:
“We’re all working off the same piece of paper, the same plan,” Ryan said at a Thursday news conference when asked about conservative opposition. “We are in sync — the House, the Senate and the Trump administration, because this law is collapsing.”
Privately, senior Republican lawmakers and staff are more blunt. They say they have no problem steamrolling conservatives by daring them to vote against an Obamacare repeal that their constituents have demanded for years.
“Conservatives are going to be in a box,” said one senior Republican lawmaker. Trump, the source predicted, eventually will “go out front and … tell the conservatives … they’re either for this or for keeping Obamacare.”
That moment hasn’t arrived yet, though, and conservatives haven’t been shy about voicing their objections to Ryan’s plan — including to administration officials. Several House Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee members have joined Senate firebrands Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee in blasting a draft Ryan plan as “Obamacare-lite.”
If there were any doubt about this, Trump has put it to rest this morning, praising the plan as “Our wonderful new Healthcare Bill”:
Our wonderful new Healthcare Bill is now out for review and negotiation. ObamaCare is a complete and total disaster – is imploding fast!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2017
Meanwhile, Rand Paul has furiously denounced it:
Th House leadership plan is Obamacare Lite. It will not pass. Conservarives are not going to take it. #FullRepeal
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 7, 2017
Sen. Paul is right. There are differences between the bill that has been unveiled and the draft Ryan plan, but two central features that make it ObamaCare lite remain.
First, it does not repeal ObamaCare. It amends it. That is a violation of Republicans’ promise to the voter. Republicans promised to repeal ObamaCare. Not tinker with it, mess with it, or delay parts of it. Repeal it.
Second, it retains ObamaCare’s subsidies, calling them “refundable tax credits.” You may have read elsewhere that the subsidies are gone — but really, they have merely been tinkered with. Refundable tax credits are subsidies, plain and simple. They are handouts from the government because you get cash even if the credit is larger than what you owe. In some areas, the subsidies are even more generous than Obama’s.
A few days ago, Ted Cruz laid out a free market vision for repealing ObamaCare. The key ideas included full repeal, combined with regulatory and tax changes that would undo the decades-old bias in favor of employer-based health care and allow greater competition. These key ideas are nowhere to be found in the new bill, which retains the basic regulatory structure of ObamaCare.
Many Republicans won’t know what to think, because they don’t really understand the free market or why it’s important. So they will look to a leader and follow that leader. For many of these, that leader will be Donald Trump. He likes the new bill, and that will be good enough for them. If Hillary Clinton had proposed simply amending ObamaCare, and renaming and tinkering with its subsidies, these same people would have flown off the hand. For them, the brand is all that matters.
Other Republicans will reject this attempt to solidify Democrat interference in the free market under the Republican banner.
It’s a schism, and it isn’t going away. And this bill is bringing the divide into full relief.