Taylor Armerding

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net.

CNHI News Service

Who says Republicans can’t get anything done? They are practically miracle workers.

Just not in the way they had apparently hoped. As the Trump administration limped to the close of its first six months without (as the media and other Trump-haters throughout the land have gleefully pointed out) any major legislative accomplishments, some of the credit for that has to go to the party that holds the majority in both houses of Congress.

Republicans, with the enthusiastic help of their Democratic colleagues, have managed to transform public opinion about Obamacare from highly unpopular to solid gold – the savior and protector of all Americans. And, in the process, they’ve pretty much destroyed their chance to replace it with something better.

How did they do it? Let us count the ways.

Incompetence/laziness — President Trump is right about one point he has hammered in tweets and speeches: Republicans in Congress declared for seven years of the Obama presidency that if they regained enough of a majority in Congress, they would “repeal and replace” it.

That message resonated. Voters gave Republicans control of the House in 2011, two years into Obama’s first term, and the Senate in 2015, midway through his second term. And, oh yes, the White House as well, starting this year.

Most sentient people figured that pledge meant Republicans had done their homework on repeal and replace. That their leadership had brought them together to discuss the specifics of a replacement. That they had negotiated their major differences down to compromises they could all support. Or, if it was clear they couldn’t come to an agreeable compromise, they would say that up front, put it aside for a while and focus on other things.

Wrong. They have known since last November that they would control Congress and the White House for at least the next two years. But they obviously didn’t even do the basics required to move major legislation. A party that can’t rally to a core campaign promise is a party that doesn’t trust its leadership, whose members don’t talk to one another in any meaningful way, and that folds under media pressure.

Hypocrisy, Part 1 — Republicans, with good reason, mocked then=Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for famously saying that Congress needed to pass Obamacare so the American people could find out what was in it. They raged at the goodies handed out to reluctant Democrats to push the bill over the finish line. They complained about the utterly partisan, party-line vote that didn’t include a single Republican.

And then they went and did essentially the same thing.

Hypocrisy, Part II — Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona are, for the moment, being treated as icons of courage for voting multiple times against various proposed repeal measures – the latest being the so-called “skinny” repeal that would eliminate only the individual and employer mandates along with the so-called “Cadillac tax” on expensive plans that is due to take effect in 2020.

Collins was nearly breathless with excitement on TV the other night, about being applauded in an airport.

Good for her ego, I guess. But she doesn’t deserve applause.

She, Murkowski and McCain are hypocrites, not courageous. They voted multiple times on repeal bills when Obama was president and they knew he would veto them. Now that passage of a bill would actually mean something, they claim to care more about their constituents than loyalty to party.

This is more about playing to the media. Being courageous, or at least principled, would have meant voting no all along if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted.

Failure to communicate — If a political party intends to replace a system governing health insurance, it has to have a simple, powerful and honest message showing how it will make things better, not tear away a lifeline from millions of people.

It would have been ready with a parade of “regular” people whose lives and finances had been upended by Obama’s calculated lie that if you liked your health plan and your doctor, you could keep them.

Wrong again. For months we have been hearing that 22 million to 32 million will be “thrown off” of their health insurance if Republican proposals pass, even though the vast majority of those are people who will choose not to buy it if they aren’t forced to. It’s a bit like saying that somebody who chooses not to renew his cable TV contract has been “thrown off” it.

For months we have been seeing frail elders and weeping mothers of disabled children saying they or their children will die if Obamacare is repealed. Some in the media have declared that Republicans are worse than the guy who shot and wounded multiple Republicans in May at a baseball practice, because the proposed repeal amounts to mass murder.

The response from Republicans? Little to nothing.

Political reality — As others have noted, the genius of big-government Democrats is that they know once they’ve given a handout to enough people, it will be impossible to undo it. No amount of logic about the proper role of government is going to change that.

So, as is the case with auto insurance, there has to be a mandate requiring everybody to buy it. About the only realistic thing Republicans can do is give people some choice about how much, instead of forcing them to buy insurance for things they don’t want or need.

It isn’t much, but it’s all they can do. And if Republicans want to get anything else done, they’re going to have to learn how to use power.

They could study their “friends” on the other side of the aisle on that issue.

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net.

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