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Is Healthcare Bill Failure a Win for Conservatives – or Something Else?

‘Conservatives’ spent the last few weeks torching the American Health Care Act.  The bill was yanked from the House floor on Friday because it lacked the votes to pass. Just what, exactly, does this mean? Is the defeat of this bill a win for conservatives?


Answer: That depends.

Friday’s action was good news for Leftistas.  For example, a March 24 back-slapping email to the troops from Organizing for Action Co-Chair Jim Messina crowed:

… when it comes to health care reform, there was no more cynical move than the one we’ve witnessed over the past couple of weeks. The new administration and Speaker Paul Ryan tried to rush through a terrible piece of legislation that the majority of Americans oppose. Their bill would have stripped health care away from millions of Americans and ended Medicaid as we know it. It would have taken us back to the days when insurance companies could choose not to cover essential health benefits like maternity or mental health coverage.

But the same tireless advocacy once again accomplished something amazing — something that was unimaginable a couple months ago, back when Obamacare opponents were just waiting for inauguration to cross the Ts and dot the Is of repeal. Today, because of people like you, repeal efforts were dealt a serious blow.

Today’s a day that reaffirms that when we stand up for what’s right, we can overcome remarkable odds. That when we organize, speak out, and take action, Washington hears our message loud and clear.

Just what, exactly, was that message? That House Republicans, aka: the Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight, still can’t shoot straight? That when House “conservatives” had a chance to get behind a bill that put the ball in motion to repeal Obamacare, they refused because it didn’t go far enough, fast enough, in one fell swoop? That Donald Trump just expended a truck load of political capital on a loss? That getting Republicans to unite behind anything short of the Second Coming is like herding cats?

Was Friday’s action good news for conservatives?

Some say yes. Like Michael Needham of Heritage Action. In a Friday email to supporters entitled OBAMACARE REPEAL: Congress Pauses to Get Repeal Right Needham writes:

Moments ago, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was pulled from the House floor because it did not have the votes to pass. This means the House needs to revise the legislation so it reduces premiums, repeals ObamaCare and truly makes life better for Americans suffering under ObamaCare.

This is a victory for conservatives. …

Really? Just what, exactly, did conservatives “win” on Friday? Because not only were the worst parts of Obamacare left intact – the individual mandate, one-size-fits-none plans, lack of competition, skyrocketing premiums, etc. – but a better bill was no where in sight.

Newsflash to House Freedom Caucus: Whatever else Friday’s action may be, it’s probably not a “win” if Nancy Pelosi and Co. are high-fiving about it.

Needham adds:

Those conservative members — those who opposed the bill because it did not repeal Obamacare — should be applauded for their courage and leadership.

So what’s next? It is now clear that the House cannot pass a bill that does not repeal Obamacare’s core regulatory architecture. Congressional leaders and the administration need to go back to the negotiating table and draft a bill that repeals Obamacare’s regulatory regime and ultimately drives down premiums.

Fine. But will a bill like the one Needham proposes pass the Senate? Because that, folks, is the brass ring. A bill that may be ideologically pure and deliver on full-repeal is great if the end game is ideological purity and full repeal, all at once. But if such legislation can’t pass the Senate, what good is it? In other words, while it may be “clear that the House cannot pass a bill that does not repeal Obamacare’s core regulatory architecture,” it may be equally clear that the House cannot pass a bill repealing anything related to Obamacare. Period.

How is that a “victory” for anyone – except Democrats?

To wit: Was the AHCA a perfect bill? No. Was it full repeal? Nope. Did it go far enough in gutting Obamacare? Not by a long shot. But here’s what Needham and the Freedom Caucus missed: It wasn’t supposed to. The AHCA was a place to start. It was step one in a tri-pronged process to dump Obama’s “signature legislation.”

In other words: It’s the strategy, stupid. In other words again: Senate rules. The “Byrd bath” and the reconciliation process. As House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy opined:

“I would love the idea that we could repeal and replace exactly how we would want to” in the reconciliation bill alone, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at a press conference Friday morning acknowledging frustrations from conservatives about the limits Senate rules impose on them. McCarthy said it was “unfortunate” that the desires of the House were bound by the rules of the Senate, as our bicameral legislative body has historically functioned.

Make no mistake: this muddled, confusing, and torturous process of passing anything stinks. Big time. But that’s how it works.

To wit again: The AHCA was a far cry from dismantling Obamacare’s “core regulatory structure.” I didn’t like it. You probably didn’t either. But the brass ring in this opening salvo wasn’t full repeal. It was what stood at least a semi-decent chance of clearing the Senate, moving to the president’s desk, and getting signed in to law. Again, it was Phase 1 in a multi-phased process of dismantling Obamacare. For that reason alone (as well as defunding Planned Parenthood), House “Freedom” Caucusers should’ve gotten behind it.

Because they didn’t, Obamacare remains in place. All of it. How is that a “victory” for anyone other than Dems, who, incidentally, are now laughing their heads off?

No, the AHCA didn’t go far enough. No, it wasn’t full repeal. But it went considerably further than zero, which is what House Republicans and America are now left with. That, and a bunch of face omlettes.

Way to go.


This commentary originally appeared on the author’s personal blog, Conservelocity.

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