Republicans’ years-long quest to repeal and replace President Obama’s failing healthcare scheme suffered a devastating blow on Friday, as President Trump and Speaker Ryan withdrew legislation from consideration after it became clear that they didn’t have the votes for passage. Following this dramatic setback, Trump said he was ready to move on to other issues, assuring voters that as Obamacare continues to implode, a second bite at this apple will become necessary. Ryan, for his part, uttered what must have been a very painful sentence: “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.” The inevitable ‘blame game’ sniping is well underway, but before we get to that, here is our analysis on Special Report, hours after the bill got yanked. Amid multiple interesting and worthwhile observations is Charles Krauthammer’s central point: By establishing a new baseline for public expectations regarding the government’s role in healthcare, Obama has won a major ideological victory for statism. His law is fatally flawed and won’t work. But he appears to have shifted the paradigm toward more government intervention, not less (via Right Sightings):
Krauthammer had begged the GOP to unify behind a single “damn plan,” then march together to turn back the Obamacare tied. That didn’t happen, and now here we are. As I added in my comments, while much of DC is fixated on the politics of Friday’s outcome, the hard reality beyond the Beltway is that millions of Americans are still being actively harmed by Obamacare’s lack of access and affordability. They helped elect Republicans to rescue them, and Republicans have failed. Plus, with poor enrollment figures and other projections coming in, the law is getting worse, not better. Democrats are going to continue to whine that by allowing the current law to play out as written, Republicans are “undermining” it. But the fact remains that Democrats are 100 percent responsible for the status quo; it’s their mess that they passed with zero GOP votes. And their so-called “solutions” — as outlined briefly in the clip of Sen. Chuck Schumer in our segment — are destructive and politically unviable: More spending, more government, more price controls. So the squabbling between the parties shows few signs of abating, and the same applies to intra-GOP wrangling, as well. The moderates and rank-and-file conservatives are blaming the right-wingers. The right-wingers are blaming the moderates and the leadership. Trumpists are blaming Paul Ryan (“this was his bill and his failure”), and Trump’s detractors are pointing fingers at him (“the buck stops with the president, who was supposed to be a world-class negotiator”). Over the weekend, Trump made it clear that he isn’t happy either:
Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017
Then (as Allahpundit recapitulated in this post) another apparent feud blew up over the weekend over another presidential tweet, with Trump blasting out a message urging followers to watch a Fox News weekend program, which proceeded to open with an impassioned (and misguided, in my view) demand that Ryan step down as Speaker. Given the current context, Trump’s penchant for hiding behind “many people are saying” hedges, and rumbles from within the White House attacking Ryan, this sequence of events looked a lot like Trump promoting an opinion that he wanted to inject into the bloodstream, even if he didn’t want to publicly shiv Ryan himself. (In fact, Trump had explicitly called on Ryan to remain in place on Friday afternoon). But a separate, very plausible theory also emerged:
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) March 26, 2017
Either the president, frustrated by the collapse of his first major legislative push, was knifing a scapegoat by proxy, or he was promoting a television program based on an on-screen graphic promoting content related to an entirely separate issue. Big difference. Reportedly embattled White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus says the timing of the tweet and the Ryan diatribe was coincidental. Speaker Ryan’s office was more specific and emphatic about what didn’t go down:
— Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) March 26, 2017
So if Trump and Ryan’s relationship remains copacetic in spite of last week’s debacle, what’s next? Tax reform, we’re told — which is extremely complex and politically-challenging unto itself, and which became even more so now that the post-Obamacare budgetary baseline Republicans were expecting hasn’t panned out. But what about healthcare? Is the GOP really going to just table the issue on which they’ve campaigned for eight years? It’s not like the existing law is improving. A number of Republicans are insisting that the party go back to the drawing board to urgently address this problem, but how might that shape up? Step one is starting over. Step three is repealing and replacing Obamacare. But step two is the real challenge, as has become abundantly clear. Both Krauthammer and Ramesh Ponnuru have suggested fashioning a bill that includes everything that Republicans would ideally feature in a start-from-scratch legislative process, “reconciliation” concerns be damned. Pass it out of the House, and force Senate Democrats to filibuster it. That sounds fine, but Democrats absolutely would filibuster it. Then what? Is there an acceptable middle way nobody has introduced yet? Or would this all amount to yet another messaging bill from Republicans on Obamacare? If so, why spend even more time on something that will inevitably butt up against another brick wall?
Editor’s note: A version of this piece is cross-posted at Townhall.com