After years of promises, months of planning, and weeks of legislative wrangling, the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare seems suddenly dead. It was a stunning defeat for President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan in the first legislative initiative of the Trump administration.
One of the major promises that Donald Trump made in the run up to the Presidential election was to repeal and replace the (in)famous Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Since 2009, the American Right has been defined by its opposition to the expensive and messy Affordable Care Act. Make no mistake, since the past 7 and a half years, the Congressional Republicans voted more than 50 times to overturn the law, completely aware of the fact that it would count for nothing as there was Obama in the White House to veto it. With a Republican President and an absolute majority in both the branches of the US Congress, it was a given that Obamacare would be repealed when Trump took over the reins from his predecessor. So why did President Trump fail to pass the legislation despite desperate lobbying and enjoying brute majority?
After the 2016 Presidential elections, the composition of the US Congress is such that the Republicans alone without the support of the Democrats can pass any legislation comfortably. Earlier, often both the Republicans and Democrats had to work together to pass contentious legislations owing to the composition of both the houses. The American Right, unlike the Indian Right, is a deeply divided house which was quite evident from the opposition President Trump faced within it’s own ranks on his was way to become the 45th President of the USA.The Republicans are divided into two categories:- the moderates and the conservatives, had both the conservative and moderate Republicans voted in unison, Obamacare would have been easily repealed and it’s replacement American Health Care Act would have sailed through.
Moderates say repeal Obamacare a little but keep the subsidies for the poor and old. Conservatives say that piecemeal repeal leaves the most expensive aspects of Obamacare in place – that only by getting government almost completely out of healthcare can America build a competitive private market that cuts prices.
Nobody wants to hurt the poor in this debate, everyone has good intentions. But the differences between the principles and constituencies of various lawmakers are almost irreconcilable.The differences that divide this party are far deeper than a disagreement on the level of some subsidy here or some regulatory ratio there. The difference is that some Republicans believe that the federal government should have a role in health care, and others don’t. President Trump and House Speaker Ryan failed to unify the Republican front and party factionalism ensured a premature death for AHCA.
But is President Trump solely to blame for this debacle? No. He cannot take the blame for the profound divisions in his party that has eluded many of his predecessors. But blaming the Democrats for his defeat is not only wrong but also an insult to the mandate Trump received. Yes, none of the Democrats voted for Trumpcare, but the Grand Old Party has a majority in the house and should have been able to clear the legislation without the help of Democrats.
This time the Left wasn’t the problem, the Right is solely to blame. The Republicans have been united against Obamacare since it was passed, their unity managing to hide the fact that the GOP couldn’t agree on a replacement. This time it was the turn of the Democrats to be united and so they did and in no circumstance should they be blamed. This was a unique situation which Trump (having no political experience whatsoever before he assumed office) had never faced before . Anything he would have offered the Conservatives would have alienated the Moderates and vice versa and thus entering into a deadlock.
President Trump also blamed the Freedom Caucus and rightly so. The conservative Freedom Caucus, which was primarily to blame for the legislative failure, was a product of the Tea Party revolution and represents anti-big government attitude that any Republican President would have had trouble winning over. Donald Trump, however admitted his mistake for bringing the American Health Care Act earlier than the taxation overhaul lined up next. President Trump admittedly rushed the bill a bit too early. Obamacare despite all it’s faults was a work in progress even before Barack Obama decided to run for the President. By rushing things, Trump and Ryan came up with a bill they themselves were not entirely convinced of.
Despite the drum beating and bragging by the Democrats, all is not lost for Donald Trump and Company. The failure to repeal Obamacare will end up helping Donald Trump for the mid-term polls scheduled in 2018. By repealing the Obamacare without a consensus replacement would have hit the poor and older whites the most which happen to be President Trump’s biggest constituency. Also, the fight against Obamacare doesn’t have to end here. President Trump still has a lot of latitude to interpret regulations, and he has already issued an executive order encouraging agencies to undermine the law by a regulatory fiat. If he chooses to pursue an all-out regulatory assault on Obamacare, it might be enough to break health care markets all around the country, and give Congress new urgency to find a replacement.
Donald Trump said that Obamacare “ will explode” and he is right in that because judging by the amount of administration required for Obamacare and it’s glaring loopholes, it’s not a matter of “if”, “but”, “when”. President Trump must be there with a better replacement when the Obamacare does explode or else it will only erode the faith in the Government further which President Trump cannot afford as it will only divide the already divided American Right.