Congress, Trump, and the new Republican dilemma

I’ve been reporting from Washington for nearly a decade now, even though I can scarcely believe it. In the first few years, as President Bush prepared to wind up his second term, I was used to one very specific dynamic, where he had lost one House, and had quite a bit of trouble passing anything major. Then, when Obama swept to power with a majority in the Senate, the shoe was entirely on the other foot.

 

Right now, there’s a fascinating dynamic to watch as the Republicans in Congress and the Trump Administration try to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The political right has nearly absolute power, with control of both houses of congress and a very willing president. They all campaigned on repealing the healthcare law, and yet, here we are. It is the beginning of a new term, a new session, and contrary to all but the most optimistic expectations, Obamacare is now more popular than it’s ever been before. In the face of threats of repeal, consumers have finally started reading the explanations we in the press put out years ago, and it turns out that when confronted with the possibility of no health care, they rather like Obamacare.

I must say, I find it hard to have a proper discussion with anybody about Obamacare given the mess it turned out to be. Personally, I’m fully in favor of governmental healthcare, but what’s frustrating in our American system is that often, instead of a parliamentary system where one party can fully enact its agenda with slight compromises but no major concessions, we end up with a partisan squabble, and what comes  out is rarely cohesive. Each party has its own idea, they both end up in the legislation, and what comes out is a law that’s based on two very different ideas which in practical terms are mutually exclusive. Hence Obamacare. We have a system which essentially consists of government funding for a private system. Little wonder people don’t think it works well: and yet we ought to be thankful for how well it has worked.

 

Now the Republicans have to face the unpleasant reality that it’s much easier to be a party that merely obstructs the Administration on every single policy agenda (even a healthcare proposal that’s practical a photocopy of Romney’s program from Massachusetts) than to actually be responsible for proposing positive changes and following through on them. Now it is glaringly obvious that they haven’t offered a viable alternative for Obamacare in the six years they’ve campaigned for its demise. Personally, I find that rather appalling. As a reporter, it’s more puzzling than anything. One would think that if a person is so staunchly opposed to an idea, they must logically have a clear idea of what they’re for in the opposite direction. That is apparently not the case.


So, now the Republicans must face the looming reality that they are now the face of disfunction when the “terrific” system Mr. Trump proposed on the campaign trail turns out to be less terrific than they anticipate. The voters expect change, and the Republicans have campaigned on change, but with no clear picture of the end result.There’s a great write-up on the dynamic that I really enjoyed reading here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/republicans-gain-an-ally-in-the-white-house-albeit-a-complicated-one-1484911483  It’s going to be a very interesting few months to say the least! We’ll see what happens.