By Peter Rosenstein, Washington Blade
Donald Trump has come face to face with political reality and is losing and losing big. He is losing his fight to ban Muslims from entering the country, a plan that has been stopped by the courts. His effort to stampede the Congress demanding an immediate vote on his bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has been soundly rejected by members of his own party. If he didn’t understand it before it must now be increasingly clear being president of the United States is nothing like being CEO of his own privately held company. Independently elected members of Congress won’t jump to his tune.
The 63 million Americans who voted for Trump now know he is totally unfit and unprepared to be president. The 66 million who voted for Hillary Clinton already knew that. Now as Trump tries to get any of his other initiatives through the Congress his voters will see this over and over again. Trump will end up saying to his voters about all the issues he promised action on what he said about healthcare, “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.” They will rue the day they voted for him as he reneges on one promise after another.
An interesting sidebar of this fight for repeal and replace was seeing the far-right members of the Freedom Caucus meet with Stephen Bannon, the man who ran the far-right news service Breitbart that helped elect many of them. He now works for Trump and tried to convince them to fall on their sword and vote for the bill. It didn’t work.
The entire GOP healthcare repeal and replace dance was like watching a Marx Brothers movie. Now, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the White House are looking where to place the blame if not on each other. Sean Spicer said Trump did all he could when the president demanded Congress take a vote, win or lose. Ryan then went to the White House to focus any loss on Trump. I can only say I feel a sense of Schadenfreude; a pox on both Trump and the GOP members of Congress.
Maybe now reality has hit home, at least for moderate Republicans, that while there are definite tweaks that should be made to the Affordable Care Act it is generally liked by a majority of Americans. A Quinnipiac poll showed only 17 percent of Americans liked the Trump/Ryan repeal and replace bill. The arch conservatives wanted the bill repealed without a replacement and the Republican moderates understand how their constituents like and need Medicaid and specifically two major pieces of the ACA — keeping children on their parents’ policy until age 26, and ensuring those with pre-existing conditions get coverage.
Trump and the GOP leadership in the House will find they face the same fight on every issue they start working on, including tax reform, immigration reform and infrastructure development. None of these issues will be easy to transform into a bill for congressional action with such a wide chasm of beliefs having opened up among Republican members of Congress.
So now the burden potentially falls on Democrats to come up with the fixes that we know need to be made to the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare was a great step forward but over the past seven years we have seen the problems that exist with it. In some states there is only one health plan on the exchanges. We know premiums have gone up for many people and deductibles are so high that there are many people who can’t afford to use the healthcare they could get. We must face and deal with these issues.
Democrats could use the ideas Hillary Clinton proposed during the presidential campaign about how to fix Obamacare. They present a starting point for discussion. There could be a ‘public option’ developed and we know we have to begin to look at how to potentially provide up to $5,000 in tax credits to families to pay for their out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. These ideas should be presented and discussed by Democrats in open forums across the nation. They could be organized by the Democratic National Committee and combined with the work of rebuilding the party state-by-state.
This will not be easy but it may be time for Democrats to begin the work of developing their bill. If the president and Republicans then don’t accept it, Democrats will have a plan to run on in 2018.