For seven years, Republicans promised to repeal the disastrous healthcare law passed by former President Obama. In 2010, they rode a Tea Party wave on the back of that promise and took control of the House. In 2014, they continued to make that promise as they wrestled back control of the Senate. With Donald Trump leading the charge, they doubled down again through the 2016 election.
As the dust settled, the GOP had finally gotten their wish. With Trump’s victory, Republicans had control of all three branches of government. Finally, they would have a chance to fulfill the promise of repealing Obamacare. Or so we thought….
It didn’t take long for cracks to start showing in the plan. Despite Trump’s support for repeal, some Republicans started calling for “repeal and replace,” then toned it down even further to “reforming” Obamacare. It seemed as though the GOP was losing the will to do what they had promised for so long.
Sadly, those fears were soon confirmed. In the House, GOP leadership crafted a bill that failed to get enough support. They tried again, only for their second version to stall in the Senate. After years of promises, the Republican Party seems no closer to fixing Obamacare than they were in 2009.
Unsurprisingly, President Trump has become fed up with the process. Despite his best efforts to push the bill along, Republicans still don’t have the votes to pass it. Now, President Trump is calling for a huge shift in strategy, one that would help fulfill the promise Republicans made years ago.
President Trump previously endorsed the Senate healthcare bill, otherwise known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), however, since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote on the BCRA President Trump has looked into other options. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) recently suggested repealing and replacing Obamacare in two separate bills, an idea that apparently President Trump might endorse if Republicans remain unable to pass the BCRA.
In an early morning tweet, President Trump showed support for Senator Paul’s plan:
If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
The Rand Paul plan to split the bill in two is aimed at getting both sides behind the process:
The Kentucky senator explained, “So what I’ve come up with, and I talked to the president yesterday about this, is what about dividing the bill in two? Do the repeal, which no Democrat will vote for. Repeal the taxes, repeal the regulations, and do a fix to Medicaid that helps to pay for everything. No Democrats will vote for anything good like that. But Democrats will always vote for spending. So the big government Republicans that want more spending, take the spending and put it in the bill that Democrats will vote for.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) concurred with Sen. Paul, arguing that Republicans should endorse a clean repeal of Obamacare. Sasse said in a letter to the White House, “On the current path it looks like Republicans will either fail to pass any meaningful bill at all, or will instead pass a bill that looks to prop up many of the crumbling Obamacare structures.”
Splitting the bill in two could be the best way forward for Republicans. By repealing the law first, the most damaging aspects of Obamacare could be wiped off the books immediately. The strategy would also clear the way for Republicans to pass Trump’s promised tax reform, which has been stalled due to the slow progress of the healthcare bill.
With Trump open to the new approach, it’s possible Republicans could finally do exactly what they promised to do… repeal the law. What happens from there is a separate issue, but the GOP would be wise to take this big first step.
[Note: This post was authored by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]