Editor’s note: The fight didn’t last long. Moments before a scheduled vote on March 24, House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act. It was a surprisingly swift defeat for a legislative priority talked up by Republicans since the day Obamacare first passed. We asked congressional scholars what the retreat means – and what comes next.
Trump legslative agenda now in serious doubt
Richard A. Arenberg, Brown University
President Trump and the Republican congressional leadership have suffered a stunning defeat. The inability of the new president and his GOP majority to pass the American Health Care Act in the House places in question their ability to accomplish their central campaign promise of repealing Obamacare. It also creates significant obstacles for the remainder of the Trump legislative agenda, especially the planned tax cut.
The conflicting demands by factions in the health care debate have laid bare huge fissures in the Republican caucus – fissures which had been masked by apparent unity in the wake of Trump’s surprising election. Further, the failure of this first test of the Trump administration and its allies on the Hill raises serious questions about Speaker Ryan’s ability to bridge those gaps.
The bill, pulled by the speaker before it could suffer defeat on the House floor, contained more than US$880 billion of tax reductions over 10 years.
GOP leaders have been counting on that reduction to the revenue base to permit a large tax reform bill to be passed using the reconciliation process. Reconciliation would permit the tax bill to be passed in the Senate with a simple majority, foreclosing the possibility of a Democratic filibuster.
However, in order to qualify under Senate rules, that bill must be revenue-neutral. The plan to use the tax reductions contained in the American Health Care Act was one of the main reasons that the Republican congressional leadership convinced Trump to undertake the health care bill first.
The wisdom of that strategy will come under severe scrutiny in the White House in the days ahead.
Will the GOP ever get its act together?
Christopher Sebastian Parker, University of Washington
By now, the GOP should should be tired of this: public implosion.
Ever since the Tea Party showed up on the scene in 2009, the Republican Party slips on every banana peel in sight. The fight between the party’s moderate wing and the more reactionary one led former Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS) to say that neither he nor president Ronald Reagan could get elected in today’s GOP.
This was followed by the ouster of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who was primaried by Tea Party candidate Dave Brat in 2014. Why? He was perceived as too moderate. He was the first sitting majority leader to lose since 1899.
This was followed by the GOP resignation of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in 2015 because, he, too, was perceived to be too moderate.
Now this. The Freedom Caucus is responsible for the current public rift in the GOP. What’s that old saying? “Be careful what you wish for.” Well, the GOP got its wish to govern, and they’re blowing it.
Richard Arenberg, Visiting Lecturer in Political Science and International and Public Policy, Brown University and Christopher Sebastian Parker, Professor of Political Science, University of Washington