Wednesday, March 08, 2017


Jonathan Chait thinks Mitch McConnell is planning to rush the Republican health care bill through the Senate because he wants it to fail:
... 11 Republican senators ... have, in some form or fashion, expressed reservations about the party leadership’s preferred health care strategy.... Trumpcare seems to be very far from corralling the necessary 50 Senate votes....

While McConnell’s plan might be necessary in order to keep the party’s legislative strategy on track, it is highly and even delusionally optimistic, given the state of his vote count....

... Is it designed ... to fail? Neither the conservative revolt nor McConnell’s plan make a lot of sense if you view them as strategies designed to yield the most right-wing health-care policy that is attainable. They do make sense as a strategy designed to insulate Republicans from failure.

... the winning play for the GOP might be to try to repeal and replace Obamacare but fail. If they are seen trying and failing to repeal the law, it might upset the base, but most Republican lawmakers will have their opposition to Obamacare on the record. And if it is to fail, it should fail quickly, so they can move on to cutting taxes.
Scott Lemieux says the same thing about Paul Ryan:
What explains the depth of conservative opposition? ... On its face, everything about this botched rollout seems like gross political incompetence.

Another, and perhaps more plausible, answer is that Ryan couldn't possibly be this inept. He didn't get his allies on board for a simple reason: He doesn't actually want any major repeal plan to pass.

This isn't to say that Ryan would not, all things being equal, like to kill the Affordable Care Act.... But now passing and maintaining tax cuts and achieving other crucial objectives means Republicans must keep control of Congress — and that's where ACA repeal becomes a major political liability.

Now that it's being seriously threatened, the ACA is popular....

Cutting their losses, letting ACA repeal die, and focusing on priorities that won't generate waves of intense opposition from all sides is probably the least bad political option for the GOP.
But that won't work, and I suspect Ryan and McConnell know that. For seven years they've been telling their voters that the repeal of Obamacare will be the moment when darkness changes to light and all evil is transformed into good. GOP voters simply will not accept a failure to repeal. I don't care if you're one of the Republicans who voted to repeal -- if the party fails, there's going to be a lot of "throw all the bums out" talk. Nearly every Republican who's up for reelection will be vulnerable to a primary challenge.

In fact, it might be a liability on the right to have voted for this bill. It isn't just prominent conservative groups that hate the bill -- go look at this Free Republic thread, or this one. Rank-and-file wingnuts hate this bill.

The problem is that Ryan and McConnell are trapped by their own promises, and believed their own BS. They said they'd repeal as soon as they could, and because they live in a right-wing information bubble they never imagined that doing so could be controversial among their voters. They'd come to accept the right-wing line that everyone hates Obamacare, so any replacement would be welcomed with hosannas. I'm not sure if they really persuaded themselves that they could accomplish Obamacare's goals through conservative means, but I think they believed it wouldn't matter -- that all they had to do was supplant Obamacare and they'd be greeted as liberators. They couldn't imagine voters, including heartland white voters, fighting to save provisions of Obamacare. They thought they could throw any old crap out there and their base would cheer because it wasn't the hated Obamacare. And now they have no idea how to please voters, because they simply didn't think they'd have to.

I can't tell what the plan is now. I think they hope they can still ram it through and assume that, in the year and a half between passage of the replacement and the 2018 midterms, voters will stop being angry. Maybe the plan is to slip provisions into the bill in the middle of the night to get the bare majorities they need. But I just don't think they can fail and move on. They'll be crucified for that.

Ultimately, they might just repeal and hold off on a replacement -- which is what Jonathan Chait used to think they were planning. Remember when then briefly became unthinkable? Remember Rand Paul writing this in January?

Well, here was Rand Paul Monday night:

Maybe the plan is to repeal and then gaslight the voters regarding the lack of a replacement. The message will be: We tried, but not a single Democrat voted for our replacement plan. The only way to replace Obamacare is to elect more Republicans. In the interim, if repeal without replacement sets off chaos, Democrats will be blamed for that.

Whatever happens, they're not just going to walk away from repeal. They can't.

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