GOP fears fall­out af­ter ‘epic fail’ on health­care

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

NEW YORK: Weary Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton may be ready to move on from health­care, but con­ser­va­tives across the United States are warn­ing the GOPled Congress not to aban­don its pledge to re­peal the Obama-era health law - or risk a po­lit­i­cal night­mare in next year’s elec­tions. The Se­nate’s fail­ure this past week to pass re­peal leg­is­la­tion has out­raged the Repub­li­can base and trig­gered a new wave of fear. The stunning col­lapse has ex­posed a party so par­a­lyzed by ide­o­log­i­cal divi­sion that it could not de­liver on its top cam­paign pledge.

Af­ter de­vot­ing months to the de­bate and seven years to promis­ing to kill the Af­ford­able Care Act, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, sim­ply said: “It’s time to move on.” But that’s sim­ply not an op­tion for a con­ser­va­tive base en­er­gized by its op­po­si­tion to the health law. Lo­cal party lead­ers, ac­tivists and po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives are pre­dict­ing pay­back for Repub­li­cans law­mak­ers if they don’t re­vive the fight.

“This is an epic fail for Repub­li­cans,” said Tim Phillips, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans For Pros­per­ity, the po­lit­i­cal arm of the con­ser­va­tive Koch Brothers’ net­work. “Their fail­ure to keep their prom­ise will hurt them. It will.” To the Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union, the three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors who blocked the stripped-down re­peal bill that failed in the wee hours Fri­day are “sell­outs”. A Trump-sanc­tioned su­per po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee did not rule out run­ning ads against un­co­op­er­a­tive Repub­li­cans, which it did re­cently against Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

There are lim­ited op­tions for di­rectly pun­ish­ing the rene­gade sen­a­tors - John McCain of Ari­zona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Su­san Collins of Maine. None of the three is up for re-elec­tion next fall. McCain, whose dra­matic “no” vote killed the bill, is serv­ing his last term in of­fice, has brain can­cer and is hardly moved by elec­toral threats.

Still, broad dis­il­lu­sion­ment among con­ser­va­tive vot­ers could have an im­pact be­yond just a few sen­a­tors. Pri­mary elec­tion chal­lenges or a low turnout could mean trou­ble for all Repub­li­cans. Democrats need to flip 24 seats to take con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, a shift that would dra­mat­i­cally re­shape the last two years of Trump’s first term.

“If you look at com­pet­i­tive dis­tricts, swing dis­tricts, or dis­tricts where Repub­li­cans could face pri­mary chal­lenges, this is some­thing that will be a po­tent elec­toral is­sue,” Repub­li­can poll­ster Chris Wil­son said of his party’s health­care fail­ure. “I don’t think this is some­thing vot­ers are go­ing to for­get.” One such chal­lenger has emerged. Con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist Shak Hill, a for­mer Air Force pi­lot, plans to run against sec­ond-term GOP Rep Bar­bara Com­stock in a com­pet­i­tive north­ern Vir­ginia dis­trict.

Hill told AP that Com­stock, who voted against a GOP House health­care re­peal bill in May, “has failed the moral test of her time in Congress”. The lead­ers of other groups, such as Women Vote Trump, have be­gun to court pri­mary chal­lengers to pun­ish those mem­bers of Congress deemed in­suf­fi­ciently com­mit­ted to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s agenda. “I ex­pect that we will get in­volved in pri­maries,” said the group’s co-founder, Amy Kre­mer. “You can­not con­tinue to elect the same peo­ple over and over again and ex­pect dif­fer­ent re­sults.”

On Capi­tol Hill, some Repub­li­cans in­sist their health­care over­haul could be saved in the short term. Yet party lead­ers - backed by out­side groups - are sig­nal­ing that they would prob­a­bly move on to taxes. Repub­li­cans hoped the is­sue would bring some party unity, even as re­al­ists in Wash­ing­ton view the a tax over­haul - some­thing that hasn’t hap­pened in more than 30 years - as one of the most com­plex leg­isla­tive projects pos­si­ble.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has be­come en­gulfed in in­ter­nal drama over per­son­nel and per­son­al­i­ties. Trump on Fri­day ousted his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and re­plac­ing him with Home Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly. The pres­i­dent did not ap­pear to share con­ser­va­tives’ out­rage about the Se­nate’s vote, but re­peated his prom­ises to re­make the health sys­tem. “You can’t have every­thing,” Trump said, adding: “We’ll get it done. We’re go­ing to get it.” — AP

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