It is difficult to imagine the near-total mess that the Republican majority in Congress has made of its efforts to “repeal and replace” former President Barack Obama’s health care law, which is not to say that this downward slide was entirely unexpected. After all, this failure is just a new illustration of the deep divisions that have for years been splitting the Republican Party between the ultraconservatives and the more moderate wing, amplified by the arrival of an unpredictable president in the White House.
Republicans had already failed once to repeal Obama’s major health care reform at the end of June, when their Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, noticing the magnitude of the dissent, was forced to cancel the vote. A second setback began to take shape last Friday with the hospitalization of Sen. John McCain, which was not without obvious irony; McCain himself approves of the plan to dismantle “Obamacare,” while ensuring excellent health insurance coverage for himself. The discomfort with the new plan was solidified Monday evening with the defection of two additional senators, including Mike Lee of Utah, a man whose sole cause is tax cuts.
Repeal of the health care law had to be done in the very first weeks of the new presidency. But it quickly became clear that Trump had spoken incorrectly, and that defeating “Obamacare” would result in putting approximately 20 million Americans – who have health insurance at a reasonable cost thanks to the reform – at risk of finding themselves without coverage.
On Tuesday, Trump, sounding resigned, made increasingly irresponsible statements, notably an imprudent recommendation that Republicans immediately repeal “Obamacare” and postpone the adoption of a replacement. This was an avenue that several senators rejected on the spot, conscious of both its stupidity and the risks to their own popularity if they embraced it.
By playing to Americans’ anti-interventionist tendencies, Republicans have succeeded in convincing many in recent years that the complex assemblage that is “Obamacare” is unacceptable. Time has finally thwarted that argument, demonstrating that the health care reform act, despite its shortcomings, has played a socially useful role.
Happily, Republicans remain divided in Congress. While the ambient confusion angers those Americans who fear losing their coverage, the good news is that while Republicans bicker, Obama’s health care law remains in force.
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