Something has apparently changed over the weekend. Just last Friday House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a press conference at which he seemed to signal the GOP was giving up on Obamacare repeal and would be moving on to other issues including tax reform. Today, Ryan told a group of Republican donors on a conference call that the fight would go on. From the Washington Post:
“We are going to keep getting at this thing,” Ryan said three days after intra-party opposition forced him to pull the American Health Care Act after it became clear it did not have enough Republican votes to pass.
On an afternoon call with donors to his Team Ryan political organization, he continued: “We’re not going to just all of a sudden abandon health care and move on to the rest. We are going to move on with rest of our agenda, keep that on track, while we work the health care problem. . . . It’s just that valuable, that important.”
Ryan also suggested on the call that he saw the decision to pull the AHCA as a way to bring down the level of intra-party tension before things reached a point of no return:
By pulling the bill Friday, Ryan said, he moved to “let a little pressure off the system, let some nerves cool a little bit and then get back talking with each other while we work on this issue and all the other issues.”
“Ninety percent of our conference was very, very upset with about 10 percent, and I didn’t want things being done and said that people would regret,” he said. “So I sent folks home for the weekend to just kind of soak in what had happened, appreciate the situation and start over and get back to work again.”
Ryan promised he would lay out “the path forward on health care” at a retreat scheduled for the end of this week.
Even before the bill was pulled last week there were hints that President Trump thought it might be better politically to let Obamacare continue to collapse on its own. Last week he tweeted that the law would “explode.”
The law is certainly not working out as supporters promised but it could stabilize at a lower enrollment level as a kind of partial entitlement. Simply put, the millions of people getting a mostly free ride on their insurance will continue to take that ride regardless how much it costs the taxpayers. But there are things the Trump administration can do to change the dynamic, starting with reduced enforcement of the individual mandate penalty and cutting off cost-sharing payments. That still won’t kill Obamacare but it will make it increasingly clear, as enrollment drops, that the law is not thriving.
In any case, it would be a big mistake to abandon the effort to repeal Obamacare given how much time and energy the GOP has put into promises of repeal for the past 7 years.