Update, 3/24/17, 4 p.m.: By standing firm, the House Freedom caucus won out as Donald Trump reportedly asked Speaker Ryan to pull the bill before it failed in the House. Ryan is scheduled to speak at 4 p.m. on the measure. This is a solid win for the Freedom Caucus and conservatives. Remember, at no time were any of the Big Government programs of George W. Bush stopped by a Republican Congress.
Despite what the establishment Republican stenographers at places like the Wall Street Journal are telling you, there is only one question that should be asked about what any “repeal” of Obamacare should look like: Will the bill result in lower health care premiums by the 2018 election? Politically and morally that is the only question that should be asked. Paul Ryan’s RINOcare does not achieve that goal.
Instead of owning up to the American people that his plan does not actually repeal the most onerous parts of Obamacare, Ryan is relying on his allies in the establishment side of the right of center media to attack his real enemies: the House Freedom Caucus. How dare a group of conservative members of Congress hold their party’s feet to the fire to do what they promised they would do.
Here’s what the Journal published late in the night on March 23rd.
The delay is said to be a defeat for President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan, but both men have done about as much as they can. They’ve listened to different points of view across a diverse coalition of Members and 33 Governors, and the House bill is a realistic compromise that can improve health-care markets, protect the federal fisc and, by the way, has a chance of becoming law. No one has offered a better policy alternative to the American Health Care Act that could pass the House and Senate.
The real obstacle to progress has been the 29 or so Members of the House Freedom Caucus, who have the power to deny Mr. Ryan a majority of 216 with a mere 22-vote margin of error. The Freedom Caucus blocked incremental reform progress after the GOP took Congress under President Obama, and the question is whether they will indulge the same rule-or-ruin tactics now against Mr. Trump.
The President’s status as a deal-maker is being mocked in the media, but he has played a constructive consensus-making role. As he’s asked the Freedom Caucus holdouts—we’ll paraphrase—you’ve won multiple elections on repealing and replacing ObamaCare, and then voted more than 90 times for symbolic repeal you knew Mr. Obama would veto. Now I’m prepared to sign the genuine article—and you’ll sink this over details? [emphasis added]
Oh yes, over mere “details.” The Journal should give us all a break and stop being disingenuous. The two major points of the Journal’s opinion piece — 1) that nobody has offered a “policy alternative,” and2) that the party’s voted for “symbolic repeal” — can be countered by the same point. The policy alternative is the repeal measure that has already passed both houses of Congress.
In 2016, the GOP-controlled Congress passed a clean repeal bill through the reconciliation process. It was sent to Barack Obama, who vetoed it, as CNN reported at the time. In 2017, Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has offered a bill that does many of the same things, as the 2016 legislation.
The GOP-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon passed legislation that would repeal Obamacare, and after more than 60 votes to roll back all or part of the law, the bill dismantle it will finally get to the President’s desk.
But it won’t stay there long; President Barack Obama has vowed to veto any Republican bill that guts his signature health care law, a five-year-and-counting effort.
The vote was 240-181, largely along party lines.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus have time and time again stated that this exact bill is what should be voted on by Congress. Contrary to the Journal and what Quin Hillyer wrote in the Washington Examiner, it isn’t the Freedom Caucus who is being disingenuous. It is Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and the establishment wing of the Republican Party. These folks were perfectly fine with passing full repeal when they knew President Obama was not going to sign it. Now that they actually have a president that would sign that bill, they are balking at actually repealing the onerous aspects of the law — the regulations. The Freedom Caucus is only asking that the GOP once again pass what they already have.
It’s pretty easy to see who one should truly be disgusted at. It’s not Mark Meadows (R-N.C), and the other members of the Freedom Caucus. It is Paul Ryan and his leadership team, who refuse to offer the bill they already passed in 2016 as the model they would use if they had a president who would sign it.
Ryan now has a president who would sign the 2016 legislation that easily passed in a campaign year as the blueprint for repeal. He refuses to bring it to a vote, lest is show that the GOP campaign promises mean nothing. The Freedom Caucus is absolutely right to insist that the House and Senate do so.
Robert Eno is the director of research for Conservative Review. He is a conservative from deep blue Massachusetts but now lives in Greenville, SC.