At every rally, on every flier, and in every speech for the past seven years, Republican railed against the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare). Now, Republicans control the House of Representatives, they control the Senate, and they even have a President in the White House who is waiting, pen in hand, to sign a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Yet after six months and four different tries, Republicans in both houses have given up on their seven year promise.
And no, Democrats are not to blame for this. In fact, the biggest enemy of repealing Obamacare has turned out to be the Republican Party itself. The House of Representatives tried twice to pass a repeal, failing on the first round because of Freedom Caucus defections and barely succeeding the second time. In the Senate, the repeal was originally doomed as Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t even have the votes to open a debate on the issue.
However, just when McConnell was ready to give up, President Trump swooped in to the rescue by holding a lunch with many of the Senators and verbally chastising them for their inadequacy. After the lunch, McConnell emerged with a new hope for the plan and in a dramatic show worthy of the House of Cards, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) provided the key vote to open the debate on the repeal in the Senate. Yet, what seemed to be a good start ended up in a crashing wreck after the multiple repeal-and-replace bills all were defeated, voted down by many of the same Republican senators who had backed similar versions when Obama was still President.
The final vote was on a “skinny” version of the Obamacare repeal that just eliminated a few of its key provisions. Yet even that was too much for Senator John McCain who, just like he saved the day by providing the key vote to begin debate, killed this last bill in a dramatic no vote. Senator McCain’s vote gained the praise of the Democrats and the ire of the Republicans, especially angering many of his own constituents in Arizona, as he had just been re-elected in 2016 after promising countless times to repeal Obamacare.
With the fourth GOP attempt dead in the Senate, both McConnell and Paul Ryan (Speaker of the House) have decided to “move on” to other issues like tax reform and approving the federal budget for the new fiscal year. Trump hit them back on Twitter, urging them not to give up and asking them to eliminate the filibuster. Then, Trump blasted them for almost unanimously passing a set of severe sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea that included a clause removing Trump’s ability to lift the sanctions without Congress’s consent. On Twitter, he said we can “thank Congress” for the all-time low in Russian-American foreign relations.
Ironically, the only two successful or to-be successful Congressional actions have been undermining the executive authority of President Trump. First, Congress agreed across party lines to throw a wrench into Trump’s foreign policy by slapping sanctions on countries and then tying his hands so he can’t lift them without Congressional assent. And now, a Senate bill is gaining traction in both houses that would basically strip away Trump’s right to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Justice Department’s Russia investigation. This bill has yet to be passed but based on its reception, it’s chances seem pretty good.
Let’s not beat around the bush – Congress has failed epically. They had the votes, even if the liberal GOP holdouts like Murkoswki and Collins voted no. But their failure shows that the Republicans never really planned to repeal Obamacare and perhaps it was only another strategy to win their elections. Sure, there’s still one year and a half until the 2018 midterms, and Congress may still score some victories for the American people in the future. But this defeat marks a disturbing trend of abandonment of principles and ideological uncertainty in the Republican Party that doesn’t not inspire any optimism in me about the future.
President Trump may not have drained the swamp yet, but he is certainly exposing who many of them are.
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