WEX: GOP Retreat From Obamacare Repeal Is The Biggest Broken Promise In Political History

Posted: Mar 26, 2017 8:30 AM

Friday was a disaster for the Republican Party. It was a setback. It was an embarrassment. And the divisions that are ripe within the GOP that sunk the health care bill will carry over to other aspects of the domestic agenda. Many are trying to blame the House Freedom Caucus for refusing to budge on the American Health Care Act, but let’s not forget that out of the group of GOP lawmakers who signaled they were going to vote “no” on Friday (at least 36 of them), moderates were also in the mix. The Tuesday Group, which is made up of moderate Republicans, was concerned about the funding measures for Medicare and Medicaid. Yet, the blame for the whole fiasco sits squarely on the GOP. They had several years to deliver a comprehensive, coherent, and effective alternative to Obamacare. Since the Bush presidency, Republicans have had ideas about how to reform our health care system. Yet, the best they could do was to roll out an alternative plan, which also kept the Medicaid expansion provision intact— one of the most expensive provisions of Obamacare? Ultimately, that proved to poison the well.

I empathize with the Tea Party. They were inspired, motivated, and enthused to rollback Obamacare. Obamacare, along with TARP, was the spark that set off the Tea Party firestorm. After winning Congress and the presidency, all they got after nearly a decade of time, money, and energy was a half-assed GOP attempt at repeal and replace. And even then—conservatives would probably put quotes around the word “repeal.” After House Republicans pulled the bill due to lack of support on Friday, Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, who were against this bill, issued the following statement. No, they’re not just going to let House Speaker Paul Ryan walk away from this:

The talk about Plan A being the only plan is wrong. This is Plan B, and it left too much of ObamaCare’s core structure in place. Plan A is the 2015 reconciliation bill repealing ObamaCare, and Speaker Paul Ryan said it was the ‘clear path’ to repeal ObamaCare under a Republican president.

“Instead of trying to twist the arms of principled conservatives, Paul Ryan should pressure moderates who were just grandstanding last time. We urge him to bring up that bill again and add Medicaid reform, HSA expansion, and pursue repeal or sunset of ObamaCare regulations that are driving up the cost of health insurance. We urge our activists to give him a call and suggest he keep his word

Over at the Washington Examiner (WEX), editor Philip Klein issued a devastating takedown of the GOP efforts on health care, noting that they now have become a party without a purpose after retreating from repealing Obamacare, which he says is “the biggest broken promise in political history.” Moreover, he added that Republicans barely even tried to rollback this law. Now that the dust has cleared, Klein said—and I can’t disagree with him—that credit is due for Obama and the Democrats. They were determined from start to finish to get the ACA passed--and they did it.

Republicans ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare for seven years, over the course of four election cycles. They won the House majority in 2010 in large part because of the backlash against the passage of Obamacare — and the vow to "repeal and replace" Obamacare was part of their "Pledge to America" campaign document that year. The botched rollout of Obamacare helped them win the Senate in 2014. House candidates, Senate candidates, gubernatorial candidates, and even state legislative candidates ran against Obamacare — and won.


Republicans were always moving the goal posts on voters. That is, during campaign season, they made boasts about repeal, and then once in office, they talked about procedural complications. In 2010, they campaigned on repeal, but by 2011, they said they needed the Senate. In 2014, they won the Senate, but by 2015 they said as long as Obama was in office, nothing would become law. In 2016, they told conservative voters, even reluctant ones, that if they voted for Trump despite any reservations, they'd finally be able to repeal Obamacare. In November, voters gave them unified control of Washington. And yet after just two months on the job, they have thrown in the towel and said they're willing to abandon seven years of promises.


What's so utterly disgraceful, is not just that Republicans failed so miserably, but that they barely tried, raising questions about whether they ever actually wanted to repeal Obamacare in the first place.Republicans for years have criticized the process that produced Obamacare, and things certainly got ugly. But after having just witnessed this debacle, I think Paul Ryan owes Nancy Pelosi an apology.


Here's the bottom line: Republicans didn't want to repeal Obamacare that badly. Obamacare was a useful tool for them. For years, they could use it to score short-term messaging victories. People are steamed about high premiums? We'll message on that today. People are angry about losing insurance coverage? We'll put out a devastating YouTube video about that. Seniors are angry about the Medicare cuts? Let's tweet about it. High deductibles are unpopular? We'll issue an email fact sheet. Or maybe a gif. At no point were they willing to do the hard work of hashing out their intraparty policy differences and developing a coherent health agenda or of challenging the central liberal case for universal coverage. Sure, if the U.S. Supreme Court did the job for them, they were okay with Obamacare going away. But when push came to shove, they weren't willing to put in the elbow grease.