It should’ve been easier.
For seven years, the Republican party beat their chest demanding the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. They held 60 votes in Congress over the last eight years to overturn it. Yes, 60 votes.
The Republican party now controls the presidency, the Senate and Congress. But last week, they couldn’t do it. The overhaul bill died.
Everything about the bill blew up in their face. It motivated the opposition and put pressure on every Republican swing member of Congress. It exposed the reality that they were in the pockets of insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. It was an astonishing defeat for President Donald Trump in the first few months of office. But most of all, it showed the promises made during the last eight years were a lie.
The fundamental question left for Republicans when they show up to work this week: Can they govern?
It’s a question Republicans are asking themselves. In a March article in The Atlantic, a Republican Congressmember in a moment of self-reflection said, “I’ve been in this job eight years, and I’m wracking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that’s been something positive, that’s been something other than stopping something else from happening,”
Representative Tom Rooney of Florida echoed this sentiment.
“We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can’t, then it’s hard to justify why we should be back here,” he said.
This is a party defined in the last eight years by their opposition to President Barack Obama. This is a Republican party that has let itself become the angry opposition. It’s fueled by right wing radio, Fox News, right-wing websites, and Tea Party activism. I’m not dismissing the strategy. That pattern of hype, partisanship and bluster fueled their rise at the national level. But that strategy has run it’s course.
In Washington state, Republicans are similarly defined by their opposition to Governor Inslee and House Speaker Frank Chopp. In Olympia this year, the Senate Republicans are taking titles from House Democratic bills and creating their own watered-down version. They have done this with the Voting Rights Act, paid family leave and others. They have crafted a Senate Republican version of a state budget that looks more like a negotiating tool than an operational budget. This is straight out of the national Republican playbook.
For the last eight years, Republicans have said they can do better.
“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump told The Washington Post. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”
The Republican plan could have kicked 24 million people off of health care, according to a Congressional Budget Office report. It raised insurance rates on older Americans and created obstacles to Medicaid enrollment. In other words, it was not better. It was not less expensive. It didn’t cover everybody. The plan was a sham.
The Republican party is at a reckoning point.
As House Speaker Paul Ryan said of the health care bill defeat, “Big things are hard.”
True. But Republicans, from the President on down, have said they could do better for less money.
This is a watershed moment. No more promises. No more bluster. No more blame. Republicans are in charge. Can they govern?
John Wyble is a consultant for WinPower Strategies. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.