A funny thing happened on the new way to repealing the Affordable Care Act. It fractured conservatism. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill rather than face a humiliating defeat. The awful, hastily written American Health Care Act would have eliminated coverage for 24 million Americans and driven up the costs for those still able to buy coverage. Not one of Louisiana’s five Republican members of our congressional delegation came out in opposition to the bill which would have cost more than 300,000 Louisiana residents their health insurance coverage. 

The bill was killed by the conservative House Republican faction known as the Freedom Caucus. That group based its opposition on the fact that the Trump/Ryan bill was not market based, conveniently forgetting the fact that it has been a series of healthcare market failures that have led the federal government to intervene in healthcare. 

Prior to the enactment of Medicare in 1965, more than 30% of seniors lived in poverty primarily because of the cost of paying for their healthcare. 

In 2008, a national consensus had emerged that the health insurance system was broken and that only the federal government would be able to fix it. Republicans agreed. 

When Barak Obama became president and congressional Republican leaders decided on the night of his inauguration to fight him on every initiative in an attempt to make Obama a one-term president, they focused on thwarting the administration’s push to respond to the national need. That decision marked the end of traditional politics in the United States. This was not about governing and policy. It was strictly about politics and posturing. 

Some conservatives saw the folly in this. The true cost of it was shown when Ryan pulled the bill from consideration for the second time last Friday. 

In the wake of the political wreck, uncertainty prevails. President Trump has been all over the map. He’s said he wants Obamacare to implode. Fine talk from the leader of the country when the result would be to put healthcare beyond the reach of people who now have it. Alternately, he’s hinted about talking with Democrats about striking a deal on healthcare, although Democrats are not interested in repealing the Affordable Care Act. Getting bi-partisan agreement on such a major issue would herald a new era of politics here, one that had been written off by the right as dead and buried as they stood in locked-step opposition to all things Obama. 

The lesson of the failure of House Republicans to rally around Trump/Ryan Care is that opposition alone leaves you wildly unprepared to govern if you have not done the serious work of thinking through and providing workable alternatives. During the Obama years, House Republicans voted 50 or so times on bills or resolutions to repeal the ACA. During the seven years since passage of the bill, Republicans could not write a bill that their caucus could agree on. So, they just kept throwing rocks. 

My guest on this week’s podcast, Col. Rob Maness, counts himself among the allies of the Freedom Caucus. He opposed the Trump/Ryan Bill because it wasn’t market focused enough, yet he also opposed it because it denied healthcare to so many people. Clearly he’s torn. 

He also now questions whether President Trump has the skills and patience to execute the kind of delicate diplomacy needed to rein in North Korea using deterrence similar to that used in the Cold War – targeting the opponent and making it clear to them that an attack on the U.S. or its allies would be fatal. Neither Trump nor North Korean leader Kim Jung Un appear to have the ideal temperament to be the players in a game of nuclear chicken. 

Maness has just begun studying Louisiana’s coastal and climate issues, but says he believes the federal government owes Louisiana help in meeting the challenge of restoring and protecting our coast in exchange for the decades of energy production we have allowed here when other states were not willing to endure the resulting damage. 

Maness believes part of the challenge of dealing with North Korea now is that we live in a multi-polar world, meaning there are no longer two great powers as there were during the Cold War. With the shattering of the Republican political monolith in Washington, we need to start thinking about what could be an emerging new multi-polar political order in the U.S. But that will be somewhere beyond the chaos that is likely to prevail for a bit. 


Thanks to Matt Roberts, AOC’s Community Programming Director for help locating the music used in this segment. 

A Foolish Game by Hans Atom (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/hansatom/55394 Ft: Snowflake

Matt RobertsComment