Last week’s failure of the American Healthcare Act (an act whose formal short title was “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017”) is a major blow to Donald Trump and Paul Ryan. In the words of the former, “nobody knew that health care could be so complicated” (or, as the latter would say, “access to care”). Besides a crushing defeat for a divided Republican Party unable to reach a vote on the bill, its withdrawal once again puts the lie to Trump’s chief campaign argument of being a solid dealmaker.
In the presidency, you can’t trade on your father’s name and money, as among the rarefied airs of New York City real estate. Indeed, Trump demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of the art of the deal by both playing his hand too early and lacking knowledge of the parties with whom he was dealing (but who can blame a man for that when watching Fox is soooo much more satisfying).
When the rubber hit the road the party unity that drove Senator Rand Paul (R- Ky.) to question why Republicans should investigate other Republicans’ Russia connections wasn’t enough to actually get anything done. Gridlock remains the norm — just not now because of cross-aisle bickering but due to intra-clique squabbles.
The Freedom Caucus, a group of ultra-conservative House Representatives with an unhealthy fixation on the deficit, roundly despised the bill, with allies terming the AHCA “Obamacare Lite” and “Obamacare 2.0” (Which is being generous given that the current Housing and Urban Development Secretary described Obamacare as the worst thing “since slavery”).
Meanwhile, moderates feared swathes of their constituents rounding on them in 2018 after losing coverage under the World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan. Even had it passed the House the bill would have likely faced its demise in the Senate, where members have more diverse constituencies and must thus practice more moderate politics.
Now that the Republican Party is faced with the task of governing, the widening gulfs between politicians driven by purity to principles and their counterparts driven by pragmatism may jeopardise its ability to enact its agenda. Though some measures, such as tax reform, have sufficiently broad-based support to get through, other changes may end up out of reach with the Freedom Caucus standing athwart Ryan and figuratively yelling stop. With this, the Freedom Caucus may begin to function in a similar fashion to Southern Democrats through the 20th century — as a rump party that lacks the power to enforce its will but possesses the numbers to prevent the party leadership from doing so.
Amidst all this, Trump himself offered few deal-breaking interventions possessing any nuance. His normal bellicosity shone through, with hyperbolic statements pouring from his Twitter feed but his involvement in the process itself was rather muted. It seems Trump’s usually oiled jaw was clamped shut by the shock of the third rail. Instead, Trump stepped back, with the bill passing from Ryancare to Trumpcare to Who Cares? That said, Trump did press for a requirement that insurance companies cover treatment for electrical burns, golf related injuries and Vietnam-induced heel spurs.
Now, Trump’s already laying the ground for future excuses, prophesying that Obamacare will “implode” then “explode” (Trump’s campaign experience should help him in that regard). “Obamacare is a secret Muslim time bomb sent by sneaky sneaky Democrats to destroy my presidency.”
Where will Trump turn next? All we know is that he inherited, as he so eloquently explained in a recent interview, “a mess…a mess in so many ways.” (It’s difficult to quote Trump directly as his sentences read like watching a dog on LSD chasing its own tail) He did drop this gem though, demonstrating that his ego hasn’t taken too much of a knock from all this commotion — “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.” Sad.
Alex Davies is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have I Got News for You? runs every other Tuesday this semester.