Last week heralded the first major failure of the Trump administration as Republican lawmakers failed to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s signature healthcare act.
The President himself had dejectedly announced on Friday that the United States is stuck with Obamacare. Following days of deal-making with the Freedom Caucus and negotiations with House moderates, the commander-in-chief had stressed that right-wing politicians had only one chance to entrench their vision.
Less than a week since declaring that “Obamacare is the law of the land,” Trump is signaling that he’s not ready to call healthcare reform quits.
“I know we’re going to make a deal on health care, that’s such an easy one,” he told a bipartisan group of senators at a White House reception Tuesday night.
No matter what course the President might have in mind, there is no clear-cut path forward. Indeed, whatever route House Republicans might now choose is almost certain to be overrun by wild divisions and entanglements of ideological mess.
“Opposition to government run health care has been a foundation for the Republican party for three or four generations now,” said Michael Steele, who was the spokesman for former House Speaker John Boehner. “So it’s difficult to see House Republicans walk away from efforts to protect the American people from this awful law.
“At the same time, after last week, it’s difficult to see how the entire conference can find a unified position,” explained Steele. “I think the divisions that have existed for some time look and feel particularly acute now that we have a Republican President.”
The hastily put-together American Healthcare Reform Act of 2017 failed after it became evident House Republicans couldn’t muster enough support from their own party to lead a passing vote. Members of the Freedom Caucus had derided Paul Ryan and Trump’s plan as being too liberal – some even branded the proposed act as “Obamacare Lite.”
Other more moderate conservative politicians waited for the Congressional Budget Office to report its findings to the House before choosing sides.
The numbers put forward by the CBO were cynical – the Budget Office estimated that, if the Republican healthcare plan were to pass, 20 million Americans could lose coverage by the year 2024. The savings over Obamacare, while significant, were also not as large as Paul Ryan and Donald Trump had previously claimed.
A CNN political insider told the network he believed the resolution’s failure to pass the House, coupled with the President’s threats to move on, could jolt the GOP into taking action.
“We’re gonna get a ‘yes,’ we’re gonna get to ‘yes.’ It will be a better bill and I think everybody is going to be very happy in the end,” said Rep. David Brat of Virginia, who is a member of the Freedom Caucus.
Not everyone shares the same giddy enthusiasm for the future.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, echoed a cynicism which has been making the rounds in Washington since Friday’s vanishing vote.
“If you can’t do this, can you then do tax reform?” he asked. “If you think this is complicated and controversial, wait ‘til we get into tax reform.”