The Great Negotiator in Question: House Freedom Caucus wrestles AHCA vote into submission
Written by Aldo Aragon
On the seven-year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, Speaker Ryan, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and President Trump expected to stand over the corpse of Democratic policy waving the flag of conservative ideals looking toward their next conquest: tax reform. Markets would rally, Americans would be tired of winning so much, and President Trump would challenge Ronald Reagan for the mantle of Conservatism.
To President Trump’s dismay, however, the legislative process did not transpire as smoothly as a NBC show. Thursday’s vote was postponed after Republican leadership—President Trump included—failed to align Republican actors, specifically members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC).
Soon after, President Trump presented an ultimatum: a successful Friday vote or ACA stays in place, allowing the administration to shift its focus towards tax reform, infrastructure, and border security. Friday came and went, along with the hopes of a swift ‘repeal-and-replace’ process as the House Freedom Caucus—and a unified Democratic front—hindered progress on the vote count.
Fearing humiliation, Speaker Ryan approached a distraught Trump to convince him that a failed vote would tarnish Republican efforts in other segments of the agenda. Failing that, Speaker Ryan postponed the vote to an undetermined date, accentuating the first legislative failure of the Trump administration.
It is remarkable to see that the parasite that debilitated AHCA was not partisan obstruction on the part of Democrats, but rather stringent opposition from agents within the Republican party. After the vote was postponed on Friday afternoon, President Trump touted Speaker Ryan’s efforts while blaming Democrats for the failure of the bill, abiding by ‘red-versus-blue’ rhetoric. But the coffin was built and nailed shut by some of the most conservative representatives of the Republican Party—fearing election repercussions of a ‘yes’ vote on a bill considered “Obamacare Lite.”
With a Senate, House, and White House all sporting the GOP elephant, this series of events is truly an embarrassment for the party. With such political capital in the tool belt, Republican leadership should have been able to synchronize the different factions to achieve a goal on which every Republican campaigned for the last seven years. Instead, the wing of the party representing legions of Trump supporters exposed party wounds that will be exploited for the next four years by Democrats.
Keep an eye on the effect of this failure on the way Senate Republicans handle the Democratic filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Someone might go nuclear.
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