The House vote Thursday to repeal and replace ObamaCare will be the first real test of the new Republican government. It isn’t clear whether the American Health Care Act will pass. But if it doesn’t, much of the GOP’s agenda will fall victim to intraparty discord.
If the health-care bill passes, it will be only the start of the legislative process. Action will then move to the Senate, where success will be even more difficult because of Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul. They tend to tout make-believe paths to conservative victories that sound appealing but don’t actually exist. Most congressional Republicans, in contrast, are stepping up to their responsibilities by legislating.
For all the grief Republicans are getting, they are only the second most dysfunctional party in America. By contrast, Democrats have been demonstrating that they’re incapable of governing. For example, in response to the president’s unsupported claim about being wiretapped last year, the Democrats on Monday offered unproven accusations about collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
The Russians did intervene in the election—in a way that is outrageous but not dispositive. Focusing on this, however, keeps Democrats from confronting the real reason for their loss: an awful candidate who stood for the status quo when voters were demanding change. As long as they continue countering President Trump’s accusations with over-the-top claims, Americans will see Democrats as sore, out-of-touch losers.
Worse was their unseriousness this week at hearings for the president’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch. In their questioning of Judge Gorsuch, Senate Democrats demanded he renounce the ideal of judicial impartiality in favor of a system that rewards preferred constituencies.
“How do we have confidence in you that you won’t just be for the big corporations?” whined Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat. “I’m just looking for something that would indicate that you would give a worker a fair shot.”
Most Americans think that judges should stand for the rule of law and decide cases on the merits by following the Constitution and congressional statutes. If judges ruled based on fashionable social views or the litigant’s background, the U.S. would become a banana republic.
Then there’s health care. The promises Democrats made to sell ObamaCare are now proven lies. People couldn’t keep their doctor or plan. Millions watched their premiums increase. The law added to the deficit. It never fulfilled its claims for how many people would gain coverage. Instead insurers are pulling out, costs continue to rise, and consumers have fewer choices.
How are Democrats responding? By ducking. This Sunday on CBS News, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reluctantly admitted there are “some things” that could be done to fix ObamaCare, but she refused to say what. When pressed what Democrats could work on with Mr. Trump, she tartly replied: “We are not working with anybody who says we’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer seems to agree. He said in a March 1 interview that if President Trump agreed to “back off repeal, we’ll work with you” to improve ObamaCare. But he also didn’t provide any details about what that would entail.
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At least one Democrat has been honest in laying out an ObamaCare overhaul. Ezekiel Emanuel, a physician who was one of the Affordable Care Act’s architects, suggested three repairs in a December interview with Salon. He would renew billions in now-lapsed payments to insurance companies to hide premium increases. He would raise penalties on people who don’t purchase insurance—because the current punishment, 3% of adjusted gross income, apparently is not high enough. And he would increase subsidies for the exchanges. (Never mind that the subsidies are already higher than originally estimated, despite covering fewer people.)
All this amounts to an unattractive pile of more spending and harsher penalties that are unlikely to change ObamaCare’s trajectory. But at least Dr. Emanuel has convictions and is willing to share them publicly.
The Democratic Party has not yet recovered psychologically from the 2016 election. No significant leader among congressional Democrats seems to understand that the party will not recover its footing until its offers a reasoned, forward-looking vision. For now, Democrats are content to be a party of anger, of the past, and of no.