By DEXTER DUGGAN
The Americans who definitely need a heap of health care today would be those Republican politicians covered with bumps, bruises, black eyes, and lacerations inflicted during their Capitol Hill battle among themselves over how to repeal Obamacare.
President Trump’s political health also is seriously at stake. How did a successful multibillionaire business executive allow such enervating infighting on this signature issue to develop rapidly under his leadership?
Almost as soon as the legislation was revealed publicly on March 6, it was criticized in important quarters within the president’s own party, and among conservative-activist groups, as woefully inadequate. Word already had circulated that big disappointments were on the way.
On March 2, CBS News showed Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) being denied access to the language being devised. “This should be an open and transparent process,” Paul told reporters. “These to me are Democrat ideas dressed up in Republican clothing. . . . This is being presented as if this were a national secret.”
Trump, like any project’s top manager, can’t control every task done by his subordinates, but if one of his executives is signing major ship-building contracts while another one says airplane manufacture is what to prioritize, he’s got to get them together, to be on the same blueprint.
And then there’s the vital task of a big businessman to please his customers — in this case, making the voters smile who entrusted the GOP from Trump on down to undo Democrat Barack Obama’s medical monstrosity.
A key vote on the GOP health legislation took place in the House Budget Committee as this hardcopy issue of The Wanderer went to press on March 16, with members narrowly approving it. But how could it be that the future of a long-anticipated signature initiative of the GOP congressional majority was in doubt day after day?
Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R., Tenn.) had said on March 15 that “I am confident” it’d pass her committee.
Republicans need to get down to business fast to make major improvements to enhance its prospects.
In 2010, Obama knew what he wanted for government medicine and grimly insisted that his nervous Democratic Congress provide it. They fell in line, enabling him to sign the medical legislation exactly seven years ago in March.
Can skilled negotiator Trump do less in leading a Republican Congress to repeal Obama’s sickening law in short order?
Although much media focus in March has been on how GOP politicians heave and weave over reversing downward-spiraling Obamacare, many voters already disgusted with eight years of Obama’s obsessions probably aren’t feeling much confidence that the GOP knows what it’s doing, even now that it has been awarded control of both the national legislative and executive branches.
Foes of the GOP leadership’s pallidly named American Health Care Act (AHCA) said it wasn’t all that different from Obama’s oppressive Affordable Care Act (ACA). Indeed, there was only one difference in the initials of the two supposedly different programs.
Surely devoting a little thought, at a minimum, could have devised a better, catchy descriptive. How about — just an idea — Getting Right Individual Needs (GRIN) as a happy bit of pith?
Of course, superficial slogans shouldn’t replace substance. But Paul Ryan, House speaker and AHCA champion, with his charts and graphs and lectures and leaden initials for legislation, only added to the stereotype of Republicans as the green-eyeshade gang — accountants without empathy.
After the GOP successfully made opposition to rammed-through Obamacare a winning issue ever since the 2010 midterm elections, voters’ patience may be nearing an end if Republicans still can’t get their act together, despite having hard-won congressional and executive control.
Even worse, conservative voters’ successfully empowering conservative politicians like new Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has resulted in Pence and Price having to expend political capital to defend the lackluster AHCA.
The very day after the AHCA was presented, the Washington Examiner posted on March 7 that Pence warned lawmakers about revolting against the measure because this is the bill backed by Trump — although it’s open to recommendations and improvement.
Make no mistake, Republicans’ national political well-being — and Trump’s — could be right on the line in the 2018 elections if the GOP flubs this eagerly awaited key opportunity.
Imagine that the United States had been overwhelmed by a foreign power in 2010, but after seven years of preparation, carefully trained troops loyal to the traditional U.S. held a news conference in 2017 from friendly Toronto to announce that their battle to retake control was about to begin.
However, the U.S. commanders quickly broke out in fistfights among themselves about whether to start their battle looming tomorrow on the shores of Florida, or of California, or with a land invasion from Manitoba. Some said they hadn’t even been able to see the battlefield maps until a day ago.
Maybe ragtag rebellion is better than lobbyists and consultants writing bills. It was individual citizens’ uprising in 2009 against Obama’s big-government reign that led to the successful birth of the Tea Party movement. The heated-up Tea Party wasn’t planned in tepid GOP office suites.
There was real debate about whether Tea Partiers should become a third party or join with an established organization. The conclusion was that Republican ideals were closer to their own, so Tea Partiers went with the GOP — and thereby gave Republicans new vigor and victories.
Yet the GOP’s AHCA seems to show so many of the attributes of the old ways of doing business: complex, unwieldy, rule-heavy, secretive, even incomprehensible. This isn’t by the people and for the people, but by the ruling class and for the ruling class.
When The Wanderer asked one conservative GOP activist and strong Trump supporter in Arizona what he thought of the health-care plan Trump is backing, he replied that he’d “heard so many counter opinions as to what is and is not in the plan that I don’t know who to believe.”
Another conservative activist told The Wanderer: “Every Republican I know wants Trump to keep his promises and be successful, because the whole party is at stake if he doesn’t keep his promises or isn’t successful. He promised to champion the forgotten man over the status quo, and nothing is more status quo in Washington, D.C., than breaking a campaign promise.”
Rather than having reached out to hear and satisfy possible objections of Trump’s faithful conservative backers, including in Congress, AHCA designers seemed to think they simply could present a fait accompli and see small-government activists fall obediently into line.
On the other hand, House Speaker Ryan, who seemed to think he was free to issue the marching orders, had been a firm opponent of Trump’s presidential candidacy until the multibillionaire’s path to triumph became inevitable.
National talk-radio host Laura Ingraham, an early and strong backer of Trump’s candidacy, warned that the president was following “a risky strategy” on the health bill with threats against conservative politicians who’d backed him.
And national conservative talker Mark Levin, who’s less of a fervent Trump fan, noted that once again it’s the conservatives who are told to get in line and obey, instead of the “moderates.” This actually is “RINOcare,” Levin said — Repeal In Name Only.
Washington Examiner political reporter David Drucker posted on March 10: “President Trump has told Republican leaders that he’s prepared to play hardball with congressional conservatives to pass the GOP health-care bill, including by supporting the 2018 primary challengers of any Republican who votes against the bill.”
On the other hand, some comments emerged in the Washington maelstrom that the White House was more willing to work with conservatives than the GOP leadership, like Ryan, was.
Cong. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said that if Trump and the Freedom Caucus can negotiate together, the bill will pass in the House. Meadows appeared on talk host Sean Hannity’s national radio program on March 14.
Hannity repeated a point he’d made earlier, that the bill was being managed to put the cart before the horse.
On March 13 Hannity said the health-care proposal was “like coming out with a bill then having a public fight over it” — or, he said, like signing a contract then negotiating the deal points in it.
It seemed to him, Hannity said, that Trump simply was handed the House bill to move forward with, and that after eight years, there was no consensus bill.
On the other hand, Paul Ryan told talk-host Ingraham that the House bill was written “with our friends in the White House.”
And an article posted March 13 at Conservative Review was headlined, “The Republican health-care plan that K Street wrote.”
“K Street” is a reference to Washington’s lobbyists, like “Wall Street” would be a reference to New York financiers.
The Conservative Review article said: “Whether the insurers were actively present in the drafting of this new bill or whether its authors were simply too afraid of political fallout to challenge the status quo, the AHCA continues in the same direction as Obamacare. The first evidence of this deference to (the insurance) industry is how the tax credits at the AHCA’s core are allowed to be used — for insurance only.”
Ingraham said Rand Paul and Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) are right — repeal Obamacare, with a two-year phase-out so people aren’t left without coverage, then replace it.
Former Arizona Republican State Sen. Kelli Ward issued a statement saying, “The establishment’s proposed health-care bill, ‘Obamacare 2.0,’ is a broken promise. For seven years, fake conservatives have campaigned off of the promise of passing a full repeal of Obamacare. Well, now they don’t seem to care and are turning their backs on the American people.”
Ward already has announced she’s running for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate from Arizona when incumbent GOP Sen. Jeff Flake’s first six-year term expires in 2018.
Now, if Trump can turn this AHCA shipwreck around, he deserves to be Admiral of All North America. If he can’t, then he probably is sunk with this ship. Twenty captains at the wheel are driving it onto the rocks, where Democrat pirates await with their knives.