‘Obamacare’ Won’t Budge

“We’re gonna be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” declared Paul Ryan, leader of the right-wing majority in the House of Representatives in Washington, on Friday, March 24, looking crestfallen following a historic defeat.

He noted the Republican Party’s inability to unite in order to throw out the quasi-universal health insurance program adopted exactly seven years earlier by a short-lived progressive majority (2009-2011) in the House and the Senate.

Following 15 months of labor and epic political maneuvers, this major and essential achievement of the Obama presidency was put in place, and subsequently confirmed by two favorable judgments from the Supreme Court in 2012 and 2015.

Despite the comfortable mathematical majority of Republicans over Democrats in the House—a difference of 47 representatives between the two parties—the repeal failed, and the failure can be explained by the internal divisions and contradictions of this conservative and reactionary coalition.

A certain number of Republicans, who are conventionally called “moderates” or “centrists” but who could just as well qualify as vote-seekers, think that the improvisation of the last few weeks plus the cruelty of the measures announced—reduced health coverage, which means millions of people who would find themselves “with nothing” overnight, all so the wealthiest people’s taxes could be lowered—did not deserve their vote.

At the other end of the Republican spectrum, and more numerous (at about 30) were the representatives of the extreme right, the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” people who believe that finding yourself “with nothing,” naked on the street and without any help in case of unemployment, sickness or accident … well, this is only one scenario of the perfect American freedom. Extremists who believe the state should have nothing to do, even minimally, with the administration of health, health which must remain a private matter, never public.

For these ideologues, the bill submitted for a vote, a miserable effort that was improvised in a few days and which preserved certain elements of Obama’s healthcare law but cut off the resources, was insufficient, since it fell short of its pure and simple abolition and withdrawal from the state.

The result: With a united Democratic opposition, and at least 40 Republicans who were going to vote no with various arguments, it was a sure defeat … and this was recognized without even submitting the bill to a vote. A vote that President Trump had demanded.

It was quite extraordinarily naive to believe that “Obamacare,” which was the product of not only a long year of negotiations and studies at the White House and Congress in 2009 and 2010, but also decades of previous consideration, could be replaced, just like that, in a few weeks, at the very beginning of a new presidency!

How can the country strive for universal coverage while protecting private insurers, private health care, patient freedom and the American Constitution? In the end, under these impossible conditions, “Obamacare” in retrospect proves, despite its shortcomings, to be a miracle of balance and inventiveness, which no doubt more and more Republican voters recognize.

It is common knowledge that Trump himself, last week in Washington, had only a very vague idea of the content of the bill on the table, and its “stupid details” (sic, from him). Even while trying his salesman ploys on the stubborn, he whispered to his advisers: “But is this really a good bill?”

What will the effect of this loss of nerve be on the future dynamic? Symbolically, this is a huge setback for the new ruling regime in Washington, which has shown itself, through this episode, to be stunningly unprepared and amateurish.

Trump defines himself as a “winner.” But this episode should, in principle, be humiliating, even devastating for him. Still, this character has shown more than once that he knows how to escape the laws of gravity. In the last few hours, he seems to have left all this behind him, abandoning his poor representatives to their mess.

His next battles: The review of the tax laws, an excessively complicated issue, and the construction of a wall. We can imagine that these projects will not be realized any more easily than the failed repeal of “Obamacare.” Will reality eventually catch up with Donald Trump?

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