“Obamacare is the law of the land”
It died with a whimper.
For seven years, Republicans have been promising to overturn President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act. And now, after just three weeks of putting that long-promised plan into action, their efforts have completely imploded.
On Friday afternoon, House Republicans pulled a scheduled vote on the bill after President Trump threatened to leave Obamacare in place if they couldn’t pass the current version of their repeal effort.
“We came up short,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN. “Obamacare is the law of the land.”
For his part, Trump said he’s willing to work on a bipartisan effort sometime next year, telling the Washington Post’s Robert Costa: “When it explodes they (Dems) come to us and we make one beautiful deal.” Trump added that he thinks the Republicans came within 5 to 12 votes of being able to pass the bill.
So, what does this actually mean for the million of Americans wondering about the fate of their health insurance?
For today, it’s a huge victory in the sense that things will basically remain the same for now.
But if you’re a progressive who believes in some form of national healthcare as a guaranteed basic human right, it’s also not a time to gloat.
You didn’t win this fight. The Republicans lost it.
Yes, Democrats showed a rare display of unity, with the entire caucus reportedly being prepared to vote against the bill. But even with that lockstep gesture, if the Republicans had reached an internal consensus, the bill would have easily passed and been signed into law by President Trump.
The only way to prevent them from revisiting another attempt at overturning Obamacare is for Democrats to take back a majority in the House or Senate, or win back the White House in 2020.
Still, it’s a heartening moment for opponents of Trump—and Republicans in general—to see how quickly their repeal effort blew up in their own faces. Consider the timeline:
First, Trump reluctantly agrees to tackle health care before his preferred “signature” legislative goals of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, passing tax reform, and passing a major infrastructure bill (likely tied to the border wall bill).
Second, the Congressional Budget Office drops a bomb on the Republican plan, saying an estimated 14 million will lose insurance within the first year, followed by 24 million within a decade. And despite protests from Republicans, a leaked internal analysis from the White House was even worse, predicting 26 million would lose or be denied coverage.
Then, Trump and Ryan begin haggling with an increasingly disparate House Republican caucus that is fractured between more moderate members who want to keep a shell of Obamacare in place, and more diehard conservatives, who want even more benefits stripped from what they derisively called “Obamacare-lite.”
That new plan was even more critically reviewed by the CBO, which said it would save less money than the original Republican plan while simultaneously delivering less effective health care to even fewer Americans.
Finally, the collapse became all but guaranteed on Wednesday, when Trump attempted to strong-arm his own party by saying they either needed to pass that version of the bill or let Obamacare stay in place.
They decided on the latter and now Trump’s entire agenda is in jeopardy.
It’s a day to celebrate for progressives, moderates, and anyone believing in the often painfully slow process of good governance. But trends can also pivot quickly in Washington, D.C. So, before you crack open that champagne and convince yourself that Trump was defeated by the resistance, remember that the most powerful resistance still comes from within Trump’s own house.