The second time proved to be the charm for the House GOP, whose first effort to begin repealing and replacing Obamacare had to be pulled from a vote for lack of support.
This time, a bill with enough votes to pass raced through, prompting spontaneous celebrations from one side of the aisle while Democrats on the other joined in a chant meant to predict a bloodbath for yea-voters the next election cycle. Now, all eyes are the Senate — where Republicans hope to somehow improve on Obamacare and the House bill alike.
All told, the legislative situation is much more of a mess than any party, or the American people, would prefer. Democrats still don’t agree whether single-payer government coverage would be superior to Obamacare’s clunky hybrid regime. Republicans are torn between a desire to wipe away the program and a fear of being blamed for future harm to infirm Americans. Making matters worse, Democrats are already spinning the new bill hard as, on top of it all, a huge gift to wealthy taxpayers. At first blush, the halting effort to find some stable destination to the tortured health care journey is just one more illustration of how inept and dysfunctional Washington has become.
But there is another story too. Obamacare just wasn’t popular or effective enough to win Democrats majorities and stave off a sustained challenge. Nor did President Obama care enough about the success of his party down ballot to build some electoral firewalls into the system. So when Republicans wound up with control of both houses of Congress and the White House, it would have been an absurd triumph of political malpractice for them to have given up on moving federal health policy away from Obamacare. It was their biggest promise to the electorate, and one of their best shots at notching a clear victory on the board early this year.
Yet, the GOP position is so fluid and uncertain in the Trump era that even chipping away at Obamacare came along with some outsized challenges….