MACLANE: President must learn to negotiate with Republican Party
Opinions Column: Conservative Hot Corner
The unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as Obamacare, propelled the Republican Party to make huge gains, from local representatives and governors all the way to Congress and the presidency. In 2010, 2014 and 2016, voters across the country chose the Republican Party as a referendum on the failing Obamacare. And now that the opportunity to repeal the ACA is here, they are squandering it. Divisions within the party are becoming apparent with the conservative portions of the party being flushed out by the more establishment wings spearheaded by Speaker of the House of Paul Ryan. They even went as far as to lock Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) out of the reading room designated for the Obamacare repeal.
The Republican Party, after already having great replacements written up by conservative congressmen such as current Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Paul, trotted out the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This bill was just a disaster. It was dubbed as “Obamacare Lite” by most conservative outlets — although it was endorsed by the Wall Street Journal — and only received a 17 percent approval rating by the American public. This could have been the result of a terrible report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a bipartisan Congressional committee. The CBO estimated that an extra 24 million people will be uninsured by 2026 under the AHCA as compared to the ACA. The AHCA would also eliminate the insurance mandate without repealing the clause of the ACA that forces insurance companies to provide insurance for people with preexisting conditions. According to the CBO report, in 2018 and 2019, “average premiums for single policyholders in the nongroup market would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher than under current law, mainly because the individual mandate penalties would be eliminated, inducing fewer comparatively healthy people to sign up.”
The bill received bipartisan opposition. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) slammed the bill for giving “$300 billion in tax breaks over next 10 years to the top 2 percent (of income earners).” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also criticized the AHCA for kicking 24 million off their insurance plans. Both moderate and conservative Republicans stood against the bill. Collins, who almost derailed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s aspirations to become secretary of education, is a more moderate Republican who voiced concerns over the 6 to 10 million people that would be kicked off of their coverage. More conservative Republicans such as Sen. Thomas Cotton (R-Ark.), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) all joined Collins in voicing their dissatisfaction of the bill.
However, the most notable organization that stood in the way of the bill was the House Freedom Caucus. The House Freedom Caucus, formed in 2015 by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), is a congressional caucus that features some of the more extreme conservative and libertarian voices in the Republican Party. The House Freedom Caucus does not officially release a list of members but there are around three dozen members. Republicans currently control 237 seats of the House of Representatives and a simple majority requires 218 of the possible 435 votes. With about three dozen votes, the House Freedom Caucus has major power in determining legislation and 25 of its members stood steadfast to their conservative values in wake of the AHCA. Along with some moderates, the Democrats and other staunch conservatives who are not members of the House Freedom Caucus, such as Massie, the House Freedom Caucus helped derail the AHCA and prevented it from even getting a vote. Not even Ryan begging on one knee for a vote could save the bill.
This stance has not come without its consequences. President Donald J. Trump took personal aim at the House Freedom Caucus in his Twitter claiming that they needed to get on board with his Republican agenda or he will need to “fight them” along with Democrats in 2018. It is really disheartening to see a Republican president attack his own party in such a public way. The bill was obviously disastrous and would have destroyed Republican prospects for 2018. And many Republicans were absolutely oblivious to this. Ryan said he was encouraged by the CBO reports because the AHCA would reduce the deficit by $337 billion over the next 10 years. Did he not see the approval ratings or any of the town hall meetings? No, instead, Republicans just brushed it off as being the corrupt media or paid protestors. Trump has reduced himself to devolving the office into a bully pulpit, as popularized by former President Theodore Roosevelt. Trump wants to push his agenda through Congress and seems shocked that members of his own party would stand in his way. Maybe instead of tweeting and watching Fox News, Trump should try to negotiate with Republicans to pass actual conservative legislation.
Daniel MacLane is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, "Conservative Hot Corner," runs on alternate Mondays.
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