Embarrassment was a better option
GOP dodges bullet by falling flat
People often embarrass themselves further in attempts to avoid embarrassment. Sometimes, they injure themselves while doing that, too. But sometimes, you dodge a bullet when you fall flat on your face.
Consider the majority party in the Senate, which fell on its face in the wee hours of Friday morning by failing to pass a health care bill. It fell while still holding its “repeal Obamacare” banner high, as they did through four elections. About 1:30 a.m. Eastern time, they just could not come up with a coherent plan to do that. Like students pulling an all-nighter to finish a term paper, their slipshod improvisation failed to pass.
Passing something would not have undone the embarrassment of having to make something up on the fly after seven years of declaring Obamacare the worst thing ever. Now the whole rest of the GOP agenda is in danger. Scaling back health care expenditures are key to that agenda. Consider how that added to the enormous pressure is to pass something. I wonder how many senators were only willing to vote for that crazy improvisation of a repeal bill because of that pressure.
Some hate Obamacare so much they cannot imagine anything worse. Yet an old cliche is true: Things could always be worse. So I am not convinced that the GOP did not dodge a bullet here. I am not at all convinced the rest of the agenda, even if it passed, could offset the political damage of a bad health care bill. I understand the Republicans want to do something, anything to convince people that having a GOP majority is useful. OK. “First, do no harm,” as the doctors say.
No one should have realistically expected the GOP to have a finished bill ready to go in January, but the lack of even a broad agreement in principle shows a truly shocking amount of drift. Donors to the GOP who were driven by opposition to Obamacare should ask for a refund.
The drift does not end in Congress. There are other ways besides passing a bad bill to make things worse. For example, there is irrational denial. “I’m not going to own it,” the president has said. “I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us.” Then the tweety bird-in-chief Twittered out Friday morning, “As I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode, then deal. Watch!”
“Letting Obamacare fail” has been the GOP plan for seven years running. It got them where they are today.
The buck still stops at the president’s desk whoever happens to be sitting behind it. A BBC commentator nailed the analysis of the president’s stance: “By telling Americans he’s going to let the U.S. health care system collapse in order to rally support for an eventual fix, he’s essentially taking responsibility for anything bad that happens in the coming days. Despite his protestations that he won’t ‘own’ what happens next, he just stuffed the receipt in his pocket.”
As for the Democrats coming crawling, no Democrat would work with a president or party as long as the stated hope and goal is destroying the plan the Democrats want saved. I heard a Republican voter quoted about health care on the radio a while ago. He complained that bipartisanship means “giving the Democrats what they want.” Well, sir, whoever you are, maybe that is because Democrats know what they want and your party does not.
As for other ways things could get worse, there was the whole the idea of repealing Obamacare now and replacing later. I do not have enough space left this week to describe half of what was wrong with that idea, but will hit a few high points:
First, even most Republicans polled want a replacement plan before there is a repeal. Only 27 percent of Republicans want a repeal even if there is no replacement ready, The Associated Press reported from a poll it conducted with the University of Chicago. Second, uncertainty in the markets drive up prices. Repeal without replacement would create more uncertainty. Finally, any realist must accept the risk that the GOP will probably not be able to do in two years what they have flamboyantly failed to do in seven. The likely result at the end of two years would be just another extension anyway.
First do no harm. Embarrassment does no harm.