By Angelo S. Lynn
Congressional Republicans called Trump’s bluff Friday, March 24, and guess who backed down? Trump did, with his tail between his legs. Trump had tried to make it a game of “chicken,” carelessly threatening Republican opponents last Thursday that if they didn’t pass TrumpCare he would “come and get them,” but it was Trump who chickened out before the bill was voted down.
Last week and the week before, Trump had thrown his hefty weight into the campaign to pass the Republican-sponsored health care plan. Repealing ObamaCare had been a frequent campaign theme of Trump’s (and congressional Republicans for the past seven years), all of whom pledged that it would be their first order of business if given the chance.
That the Republican health care plan was pulled before a losing vote on Friday, at Trump’s request, was a major defeat for Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Of course, Trump immediately tried to pin the losing effort on others (Ryan, conservative Republicans, Democrats, Obama, again) — anyone but himself. For Trump, the buck never stops with him.
What we hope Trump is finding out about the presidency is that policy matters. The Republican majority in Congress didn’t hold together on TrumpCare because it was bad policy. And policy that hurts most Americans will be harder and harder to pass as the 2018 elections near. That’s bad news for Republicans as many of their biggest priorities hurt lower and middle-income Americans, while benefitting the rich. Even with a president who is willing to lie about all things, and a Republican party that is willing to sell snake oil to its supporters, facts do matter — especially when working class Americans find out they are about to get the shaft.
Make no mistake, revising or repealing ObamaCare will be an issue again before the next election. Only this time, Americans who believed Trump’s and Congressional Republicans’ rant that ObamaCare was terrible and their new plan would be fantastic, won’t be as gullible. During the next health care debate, Americans will be on the lookout for Republican changes that might mean millions of Americans would lose their insurance (contrary to what Trump claimed in his campaign). They’ll be ready to protest measures in which premiums would skyrocket for seniors, and suspicious of Republican claims to lower premiums, when they now know that the reason Republicans could promise lower premiums was only by gutting insurance benefits. Under the last proposed version of TrumpCare, for example, the plan dropped minimum requirements insurance companies had to cover, including:
ambulatory patient services
maternity and newborn care
mental health and substance abuse
rehabilitative services and devices
preventive and wellness services and chronic diseases
pediatric services, including oral and vision care
What would insurance cover under the proposed plan? Not much, and all the above “benefits” would be added expenses. In short, most eighth-graders could do that math and tell you the Republican plan would raise insurance costs on seniors, drastically cut benefits for younger people’s plans and families, run up the national deficit for the first four to six years—all the while giving what analysts are now saying would have been almost $1 trillion in tax cuts to the super rich. It was not, as Trump claimed during his campaign, “the most amazing plan you will have ever seen; just wait.” Americans did, and even Republicans considered it a disastrous flop.
But beyond this health care debate, the country may benefit because a big faction of Republicans said “no” to Trump and he backed down. His fake shield of invincibility, which was always based on his bravado (not intelligence), has been broken just 60 days into his presidency.
For the country’s sake, we hope Trump will learn from this mistake and understand that policy does matter; that what happens to people — real Americans — is important, more important than politics. Whether Trump and Republican leaders take that lesson to heart will determine how successful their forthcoming agenda will be.
Angelo S. Lynn is the publisher of the Addison Independent, as sister publication to the Mountain Times.