If Washington politics was the NFL, then the GOP was the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. Everything was set up for a clear win - majorities in Congress and a President who was itching to affix his signature to a bill that would send Obamacare to the scrap heap of history. But they fumbled the ball on the one yard line, and now the GOP is licking their wounds and everyone wants to know what the heck happened?
Most GOP supporters around the country are angry and confused because they expected more from this Congress. Others are furious that this bill did not sufficiently differ from Obamacare and are relieved that it failed. The Democrat supporters were against anything that attempted to undermine their beloved Obamacare, blind to the fact that it is imploding and soon will be no more, and ignorant regarding the ramifications.
It might be useful in the post-game analysis to try to explain some things and offer some perspective.
This entire affair can be better understood if certain concepts are introduced into the discussion- politics, strategy, and messaging.They often all run together, as was the case here.
Politics is the art of the possible, not the perfect. In the case of the GOP as opposed to the Democrats, politics is not a team sport, as much as we all wish that it was. There are too many people who want credit, and too many who will take their ball home if they don't get their way.
One criticism of this bill was that it was crafted by leadership without input from other factions in the Republican House, like the Freedom Caucus or the more moderate Tuesday Group. Maybe that was a strategic error. Ultimately, these groups didn't get what they wanted, so they sunk the bill.
Messaging has always been a problem for the GOP, and once again they did not disappoint. We heard repeatedly that this was a three-step process, but not enough time was spent explaining the ultimate vision of where we were heading with this process. America wanted specifics, not promises, so it is no wonder most everyone is confused. Only those of us who can identify the photos of all the Cabinet members understood what reconciliation meant and that Speaker Ryan was designing a bill that could be introduced into the Senate via this process.
It is easy being an armchair Monday morning quarterback, but perhaps there is a way to tie politics, strategy and messaging all together. What if the House created a bill that contained ALL of the elements of what we wanted to see in a repeal and replace package? What if they clarified to the American people exactly what the GOP vision of a health care plan would look like? This would be done knowing that the Senate would filibuster this bill and never let it come to the floor for a vote. But it would have put the Democrats on the defensive and it would have telegraphed to the American people what healthcare would look like after Part Three. It would have smoothed out the process of then following up with a reconciliation bill, making it easier to get that Part One passed.
There were more good things in the American Health Care Act than there were bad. It was the first time in history that an entitlement was being eliminated, and in this case it was two: Obamacare and the federal control of Medicaid, by giving it back to the states. Medicaid spending was being capped. The limit on HSA contributions nearly doubled. Tax equalization for individuals who purchase their own healthcare was established. And money was being allocated to states to re-establish high risk pools that were eliminated under Obamacare.
The GOP will get another chance to tackle healthcare reform, because Obamacare is failing and Americans are being hurt by it. They must stop being the opposition party and begin to govern. Let's hope that the next shot that the GOP has at this is a controlled drive to the goal line and not another Hail Mary pass.