Those who follow what I’ve written about Paul Ryan’s Obamacare 2.0 know my feelings on the matter. I believed his proposed legislation would be a betrayal long before it was presented to the public. I predicted this time and again, knowing full well where Ryan’s campaign cash comes from and where his real loyalties are.
So in a sense I wasn’t too surprised with the disaster Ryan rolled out Monday night. But what I was surprised by is how bad it ended up being. It’s not just bad, it’s really bad.
From what I’m reading there may not be any chance at all of the bill, in its current form, passing either chamber. There is growing consensus on both sides of the aisle that the bill is so bad it can’t be marked up enough to become acceptable.And virtually know one but Ryan and his leadership are suggesting it will do much of anything to solve the seemingly infinite number of problems created by Obamacare.
So what was the point? What was the objective?
Ryan isn’t a conservative, nor is he a champion for smaller government. But he’s no dummy. He’s a skilled lawmaker who knows how to work the system. He knows how to move legislation forward and he knows what needs to be done to advance an agenda.
So why roll out something destined for failure from the start? That’s a question I don’t have a solid answer for. But The Week has put forth a theory that as much as I hate to say it… kind of makes sense.
Paul Ryan may have never wanted the bill to pass at all, according to their theory. In fact, they claim, Paul Ryan may not want a repeal or a replace to happen this cycle period.
From The Week.
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. His entire political career has been devoted to attacking programs for the poor to pay for upper-class tax cuts. 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. And as Greg Sargent of The Washington Post explains, passing RyanCare would almost certainly be a political disaster in the 2018 and 2020 elections. Marginal voters might favor “small government” and oppose the “government takeover of health care” in the abstract, but that doesn’t mean they won’t object to having their coverage taken away or made substantially worse.
Passing a health care bill that takes coverage away from voters would also complicate what will already be a difficult political situation for the Republicans. They’ve benefited from having the opposition control the White House during a time of gridlock, but now the shoe is on the other foot. The out party generally fares better in midterm elections to begin with. Even worse for Republicans, the popularity of the president is the best predictor of how the party will fare in congressional elections. And while Donald Trump was able to eke out an Electoral College win with a lot of help from an unpopular opponent and the FBI, he remains a very unpopular figure.
First let me say that last line is misleading. Trump is unpopular amongst those he was always unpopular with. But those who voted for him, and many more of course, still hold him in decent regard and root for his success. His approval rating still sits at 51%, according to some of the latest polls. So such a claim is propaganda in many aspects.
The column also ignores all the damage done to those who do not benefit from Obamacare. A group far larger than those who benefit.
But the rest of the assertion feels very plausible. Not only plausible, but absolutely textbook Paul Ryan and general GOP thinking.
The kind of bankrupt thinking that has cost Republicans power several times over the past few decades. Avoid upsetting the left to win elections.
Republicans are in power only because they campaigned against Obamacare. So why on earth would Paul Ryan think that by secretly leaving Obamacare in place, breaking one of the biggest campaign promises Republicans made in 2016, he’ll somehow protect his majority in 2018 and 2020?
Because that’s the way these people think.
Paul Ryan has abused those he represents for decades now. In an election year he becomes a champion of smaller government, pushing through straight repeal bills he knows have no chance of being signed (under Obama, for example). But if and when there is a chance such a bill would actually succeed, Ryan is MIA.
He knows full well what he’ll have to endure if he repeals Obamacare straight up. Highly astroturfed protests, false claims by powerful, nasty Democrats and a general overall PR war that he has proven unwilling to fight.
The sad part is it’s a fight he can win. But to win it will take grit and resolve. And a lot of political pain.
There is no proof Ryan never wanted a repeal, a replace or both to happen this year. But there is now a long history of Ryan avoiding such wars, even if it means the size of government explodes, entitlements expand and the nation continues its spiral into bankruptcy.
Because at the end of the day Paul Ryan isn’t hurting. He’s not on some crappy Obamacare health plan. He doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck. He doesn’t relate to the average American nor does he feel compelled to do so. He’s a man in a high castle and he knows it.
For him it’s a simple algorithm. He either gets into a battle with a nasty, well organized and wildly funded rabid left (and many of his biggest donors), or he uses false premises to pretend he’s fighting when he’s not and ignores the blowback he gets from the right. In his mind both options leave him in power, but one is far less comfortable politically. And the latter option, while it may not bring him down, could very well bring down many others within the GOP ranks.
But that’s a risk he has often proved he’s willing to take. And if he takes it the rest of us lose.