Failure Of Health Care Bill Is An Indictment Of GOP Leadership

Failure Of Health Care Bill Is An Indictment Of GOP Leadership

You don’t have the votes, you don’t have the votes.

“Republicans streaming out of the House GOP conference meeting on Friday afternoon told reporters that the legislative effort was dead and that leaders were moving on to other agenda items, such as tax reform. During a news conference at the Capitol, House Speaker Paul Ryan attributed the setback to Republicans’ newfound status as a governing party. “We’re feeling those growing pains today,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “We came up short.” “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” he added.”

Chris Jacobs last night predicted that the over/under for votes for the AHCA was around 175 – and this bill looked to be headed for the under. So how does this happen? Whose fault is it? And what can be done to prevent it from happening again?

Yes, AHCA failure is a failure for the president, but it’s much more a failure for House leadership and Paul Ryan. They had seven years to prepare for this moment, and they failed to do so sufficiently.

At some point, it is incumbent upon Republican leadership to reevaluate their approach. They’ve been complaining about a post-earmark legislative process for years – when will they realize it isn’t coming back?

The point isn’t that the Freedom Caucus isn’t obnoxious. The point is that they’re not going away. An economically and politically self-sustaining conservative faction in the party isn’t a fad. It’s the way things are now.

Leadership types have bitched and moaned about this reality… K Street certainly hoped Trump’s win would tame the Freedom Caucus faction or alter the incentives… But this is a wake up call to leadership to recognize the reality they’re dealing with isn’t going to change any time soon.

And this didn’t just fail because of the Freedom Caucus! It failed because of moderates too, and centrist minded conservatives like Comstock and Frelinghuysen. How do you end up with, after seven years, a bill opposed by every major conservative, elderly, and doctors groups? By coming up with it behind closed doors and counting on Donald Trump to be your blunt weapon against members who virtually universally ran ahead of him in 2016… for a bill that has 17 percent support.

Leadership must develop a new, inclusive, transparent process. Otherwise they’re going to face failure after failure because they don’t offer a process that is open and listens to everyone before they try to ram something through. Without that process, how different are they from the Hastert three hour Medicare Part D vote, except without earmarks? The strategy and the bill can’t just be written or advanced by leadership – it has to include everyone.

Leadership saying “we could still govern if it weren’t for Freedom Caucus” is Sears saying “our catalog would rule if it weren’t for Amazon.”

Finally, for as much as this is a defeat for the White House, there is now a significant opening for Trump and his team to seize control of the agenda and the process going forward. This could be good or bad for conservatives, but it would definitely push the current leadership to the side. We’ll have to wait and see if that happens. But perhaps that’s what Steve Bannon wanted all along.

Ben Domenech is the publisher of The Federalist. Sign up for a free trial of his daily newsletter, The Transom.
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