The GOP’s ‘bi­nary choice’

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - — Ed Rogers

All eyes are on Vice Pres­i­dent Pence and Rick Dear­born, White House deputy chief of staff for leg­isla­tive, in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal af­fairs and im­ple­men­ta­tion. They are the able hands that will guide the White House through the process of pass­ing the Amer­i­can Health Care Act. The ef­fort to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare is cen­tral to the very be­ing of the Repub­li­can Party. Its sig­nif­i­cance can­not be over­stated. And so far, I think, things are pro­ceed­ing ac­cord­ing to plan. The era of Oba­macare may soon be over.

The me­dia has been fix­ated on the GOP’s naysay­ers. Some Repub­li­cans have ob­jec­tions to the bill and made some noise, but they aren’t the real story. What I see is the White House mov­ing in sync with House and Se­nate lead­er­ship.

The bill’s cen­tral com­po­nents have kept the core of the GOP cau­cus in­tact and an­swered most of the con­cerns of busi­ness lead­ers. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (RWis.) guar­an­teed that Repub­li­cans will “have 218 votes when this thing comes to the floor.” Of course, the leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced last week is not what will ul­ti­mately pass. There will in­evitably be plenty of chances for less-than-en­thu­si­as­tic mem­bers to amend or sup­ple­ment the bill. The same can be said for fair-minded in­dus­try and con­sumer groups. But those who are com­plain­ing about this pro­vi­sion or that pro­vi­sion are mostly the usual sus­pects. There was no point in try­ing to ac­com­mo­date them early in the process.

Mov­ing for­ward, the White House will have to make a se­ries of im­por­tant strate­gic de­ci­sions as it bal­ances its car­rots and sticks in as­sem­bling the votes for pas­sage. An im­por­tant ques­tion is whether Pres­i­dent Trump will tar­get and un­load on Repub­li­cans who have hes­i­tated to get on board. I’m usu­ally against the idea of seek­ing ret­ri­bu­tion and pub­licly call­ing out mem­bers of Congress. It’s typ­i­cally coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. Plus, no one should burn bridges. But this vote mat­ters more than most, and Trump’s un­prece­dented, unique abil­ity to vote-shame with a tweet or two could be ef­fec­tive.

So far, the bill has cleared two key House com­mit­tees and is bar­rel­ing to­ward a floor vote. Very soon, Repub­li­cans in Congress will have to make what Kellyanne Con­way, coun­selor to the pres­i­dent, de­scribed as a “bi­nary choice . . . you’re ei­ther mak­ing good on the prom­ise to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare or you’re not.” In my es­ti­ma­tion, the GOP will main­tain course and fin­ish what it has started, if for no other rea­son than that the con­se­quences of fail­ure are so se­vere.

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