Editorial: Epic failure exposes GOP’s dysfunction

The Detroit News

Republicans had seven years to prepare their plans for repealing and replacing Obamacare, and now that they are finally beyond the obstacle of a Democratic president, they are stumbling over themselves.

Friday’s epic failure by the House to mount even a vote on the American Health Care Act, the GOP’s answer to the Affordable Care Act, leaves Republicans without a plan for what to do next.

President Donald Trump, acknowledging it did not have the votes to pass, asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to pull the bill.

Now what?

Remember, when Obama was in the White House, Republicans voted to repeal Obamacare more than 50 times. When they got what they sought — full control of Washington — they sputtered.

Trump said Thursday that if the GOP-controlled Congress can’t pass an ACA replacement, he is ready to move on to other items on his agenda, such as tax reform, and let Obamacare keep lurching to collapse.

It was a classic businessman response: When negotiations reach a hard impasse, stop dealing and move on.

It may be a bluff. And it certainly is not an option. The president and House Speaker Paul Ryan have to keep trying to craft a new version that wins over the conservative Republicans who sank this attempt.

The consequences of not finding an Obamacare replacement that can appeal to all factions of the Republican Party are enormous, both for the GOP and the country.

Republicans used the promise of repealing Obamacare to win and maintain majorities in the House and Senate. If they don’t recover, how will they explain their fumble when they face voters in 2018?

Those in the GOP who believe blame for the inevitable disintegration of Obamacare will fall on Democrats because they are wholly responsible for creating the mess must not have noticed what’s happening in the country the last few months.

Of course Republicans will get the blame. Democrats know that, and it’s why they feel no compulsion to participate in a fix. It was the GOP that promised it had the answers to the ills of the Affordable Care Act, and as it turns out, it doesn’t.

There’s not much surprise in what happened Friday. Republicans have been the congressional majority in name only. The reality is the GOP is as much two parties as it is one.

The refusal of the give-no-quarter Republicans to bend on any of their core principles has prevented the GOP from showing a united front on most issues since they came to power in 2010. They should have been sending Obama bill after bill expressing the conservative agenda, and forcing him to veto them.

Instead, they warred over ideological purity. Members of the so-called Freedom Caucus would rather hand a victory to Democrats than bend on their principles.

And while Trump says he wants to move on to other issues, there’s nothing to suggest these hard right-wingers will make the concessions on tax reform — or anything else — necessary to win passage.

Friday was a bad day for Republicans. A worse day for the country.

Those on the left who believe Obamacare will be fine with a few little tweaks are as wrong as those on the right who contend a total repeal will return the health insurance market to the pre-ACA era.

That market is gone. Its replacement, Obamacare, is an abject failure. Insurers are dropping out of the exchanges, Medicaid costs threaten to destroy state budgets and outrageous premiums and deductibles are making private and employer-provided insurance policies useless for the middle class.

For those reasons, Republicans can’t stop striving to unify behind a real solution. But Friday’s self-destructive exercise gives little cause for hope.