This is the truth: the Freedom Caucus has breathed new life into the demolished Democratic Party.
It is Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer who are celebrating the breakdown of efforts to pass the Affordable Care Act – not the country.
For eight years Democrats have accused Republicans of being the “Party of No”, only capable of obstruction and posturing but not of governing. In defeating the efforts of Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Tom Price and Donald Trump to dump ObamaCare and replace it with a slimmed-down, more intelligent and flexible program, they have given Democrats incalculable ammunition to make that case.
It’s not the first time. Over the past several years the House voted dozens of times to repeal all or part of ObamaCare, a gesture both pointless and borderline absurd; President Obama was never going to sign legislation dooming his legacy achievement, even if somehow the measure made it through the Senate. But it sure made House Republicans feel good about themselves.
Now that they actually have a chance to do something meaningful – repeal the taxes and fees that are the undercarriage of the Affordable Care Act – they can’t make it to the finish line.
Let us consider some hard facts:
Number One: Conservatives are not in the majority in the United States. If they were, Evan McMullin would be president.
Number Two: The country does not want to return to the pre-ACA era. President Obama produced a monstrous piece of legislation, which was doomed by its excessive mandates and its inability to attract young, healthy patients. But the bill itself is not Obama’s legacy. Rather, he will be credited with changing the country’s viewpoint on universal health care. Few Americans today think we should be the rare developed nation that fails to provide medical services to every citizen.
Number Three: Crafting a compromise health care bill that will safeguard popular provisions that President Trump vowed to keep, like protections for those with preexisting conditions or the ability to keep children up to the age of 26 on their parent’s insurance, is not easy.
The ACA is something of a mess, and the scoring received by the CBO reflects its shortcomings. But there is more to follow, such as allowing insurers to compete across state lines, which will make it better.
The Senate, too, will have a chance to weigh in.
The vote, in other words, is not strictly on the ACA, but on a process which will lead to an improvement over the status quo. The bill as it now stands is imperfect, but it’s better than ObamaCare.
The Freedom Caucus and others opposing the ACA must accept that the push for this bill is bigger than their principles and it is bigger than health care.
This is a battle to establish the legitimacy of the Trump presidency. Never in our country’s history has a duly elected president faced such opposition – from his political opponents and from different voices in his own party. And also perhaps, from the country’s intelligence services.
The United States has entered a danger zone, where trust in our political leaders and our institutions has plummeted. The only way out is for President Trump to follow through on the promises he made to voters, promises which will put the country back on track.
But, it all starts here. If the health care bill does not pass because of resistance within his own party, the president will be gravely wounded.
Since other measures, and most especially tax reform, are backed up behind the ACA, it is quite possible that the reckless behavior of the Freedom Caucus will derail the Trump train.
That would be a disaster. The country has seen a healthy surge in optimism since President Trump was elected. Consumers, small business owners, investors – all have high hopes that lower taxes and lighter regulation will buoy spending and investment, ushering in higher growth, more jobs and better pay after these past eight sluggish and dispiriting years.
They are hopeful that Obama’s progressive agenda will be swept aside, allowing the country to return to policies buttressed by common sense and a common purpose. That agenda hangs by a thread.
With Republican majorities in the House and the Senate and with President Trump in the Oval Office, conservatives have the best chance they’ve had in well over a decade to help craft policy. If they cannot find a way to support President Trump at this critical juncture, they may well lose that opportunity in 2018.
That said, they are not the voice of the nation or even of the Republican Party; what they want is unrealistic. It is not politically possible to repeal ObamaCare and not put something in its place. Imagine the confusion and anxiety; real people will suffer, and for what? Only 20 percent of the country wants ObamaCare repealed, according to a recent poll. This is not a popular position.
What do most people want? To make insurance more affordable and accessible, which is what the ACA aims to do as well.
The Freedom Caucus needs to get on board – now.
Bradley Byrne of Alabama summed it up beautifully on Thursday, asking: “Are you for President Trump and for repealing and replacing ObamaCare or are you against President Trump and against repealing and replacing ObamaCare?” He’s correct – it’s that simple.