Saturday, March 25, 2017

Democrats Triumph: GOP Health Care Bill Collapses, Obamacare Remains

Things are not going well for Republicans. Last week started with a 37% favorability rating for a president who loves to win, who thinks of himself as a winner and pronounces that he has won even when he lost. 

Donald Trump has bragged forever and a day about his ability to make a deal and about the book he wrote on the subject. But as Timothy O'Brien, author of  TrumpNation: the Art of Being the Donald pointed out on CNN, Trump was never any good at complex business deals. In fact, those were the deals that failed the most spectacularly. And The Art of the Deal was written by a ghost writer, who subsequently spoke of his remorse at promulgating a lie, saying "I put lipstick on a pig".  

The Trump Administration has seen nothing but failure since January 20.  Trump began with low popularity and his ratings are now the worst in history for a new president.  

The first Muslim travel ban was blocked, and so was the second. Trump's promises to build the wall on the Mexican border, and make Mexico pay, fell flat. His relationship with Russia is going south.  Mike Flynn was forced to resign and Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from a core investigation. The Trump campaign and possibly even Donald Trump himself are under Congressional and FBI investigations for suspected collusion with Russia regarding the 2016 election. Collusion that could lead to criminal prosecution and jail time for treason.

Then Trump's ludicrous and potentially libellous wiretapping accusations were exposed as pure fiction and he was scorned internationally. Now his first piece of legislation, Trumpcare, has failed to make it out of the gate. Speaking to Dana Bash of CNN, Jake Tapper called it an "ignominious defeat". 

It's been a tension-filled two days. After a lot of posturing from Paul Ryan, threatening from Donald Trump, spinning from Sean Spicer and categorical assertions that there was no plan B because plan A would definitely pass, the vote was postponed. Thursday was spent in frantic attempts by Paul Ryan and the president to convince House Republicans to vote yes for this Republican health care bill that nobody liked. As the day  wore on, opinion that the vote was close shifted from cautious predictions of failure, to certainty of it.

The idea of the bill being pulled a second time started circulating. Within an hour CNN broke the news that Trump had told Paul Ryan to do the deed.  Later it was reported that Ryan had had to talk Trump off the ledge, so keen was he to name and shame Republicans who wanted to vote against him. He's not likely to forget their names.  

Repealing Obamacare was the major, fundamental campaign issue that won the House for Republicans in 2010 and won Congress and the Presidency in 2016. Republicans have been obsessed with it for seven years, making more than 50 repeal attempts, hankering after the power to get rid of it. In that time, nobody ever came up with anything that remotely resembled a replacement. As Politico reported, ex Speaker of the House Jim Boehner said in February that he laughed when 'Republicans started talking about moving lightning fast on repeal and then coming up with an alternative.'

"In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once. And all this happy talk that went on in November and December and January about repeal, repeal, repeal—yeah, we'll do replace, replace—I started laughing, because if you pass repeal without replace, first, anything that happens is your fault. You broke it.”

They tried to break it but failed even at that. On camera, House Republicans are praising the president and Paul Ryan, and it’s a love fest between the two of them. But Trump is clearly furious, Ryan is visibly taking strain, and off camera the blame game is in full swing.

Who needs cameras these days when there are so many aides in the Trump camp willing to talk? Republicans who wanted to vote yes are pointing fingers at the Freedom Caucus, who refused to budge on their no vote position. This is the group who shut down the government in an attempt to repeal Obamacare during President Obama's second term. They thought they could blackmail the President. Their ruse failed. He played hardball and they had to back down. Rep Devin Nunes, a Jim Boehner ally, called them "lemmings with suicide vests".

The Freedom Caucus were heavily criticized by more moderate Republicans at the time. “You’re not going to repeal Obamacare while a guy named Obama is President of the United States,” said Rep Tom Cole.

It seems they're not going to repeal Obamacare while a guy named Trump is president, even though the GOP has complete control of Congress. Long ago they labeled the ACA Obamacare in derision. Then, out of pure spite, they chose the anniversary of Obama signing it into law for their original date to vote on Trumpcare. Their mean-spiritedness has succeeded only in highlighting their abysmal failure. Now for the foreseeable future Obamacare will be a constant reminder of it. The very real and powerful presence of former President Barack Obama and his tremendous success will haunt them.

Kudos to Democrats for the fight they put up and to voters who voiced their objections with their representatives and at town hall meetings, putting the fear of God into moderate Republicans.

This is another triumph of good over evil and a reminder that winning an election by colluding with a foreign power and gaining total control of government is not a free ticket in a strong democracy. Especially when that government does not have the interests of the majority of the people at heart.