The Rushmore Report: Trump, Ryan Lost on Obamacare, What Now?

When it came to bringing Republicans together to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Trump’s sweet talk, threats, horse trading, and ultimatums were not enough. “At some point, you can only do so much,” a resigned White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Friday. Along with House Speaker Paul Ryan, the president was unable to convince enough members of his own party to vote for the historic measure.

Despite last-minute changes, and an overnight delay, there were still too many Republicans opposed to the White House-backed plan to unravel the 2010 health law known as Obamacare. Party leaders tried to appeal to conservatives by repealing requirements that health insurance plans cover “essential benefits” like maternity care and hospitalization, but opponents from the right-wing Freedom Caucus insisted the bill still maintained too much of the original architecture and would not sufficiently lower costs. More moderate Republicans, meanwhile, balked at the legislation because of the number of people projected to lose insurance coverage, among other things.

“I will not sugarcoat this – this is a disappointing day for us,” Speaker Ryan told reporters after the vote was cancelled. “All of us, myself included, will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment, what we could have done and do it better.”

The questions are twofold.

Is the Republican healthcare overhaul dead?

Republicans in Congress have expressed hope they could revisit healthcare, though no one offered a timeline. Senator Mike Lee said, “We will begin working collaboratively with our more moderate colleagues in the Senate and in the House to produce a bill that will reduce costs, save taxpayers money, and make our healthcare affordable again.”

In the meantime, Ryan conceded that Obamacare would remain in place indefinitely. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to replace the law.”

Where do Republicans go from here?

In the interim, both Trump and Ryan expressed confidence they can move on to other items on their agendas, starting with tax reform. “We will probably start going very, very strongly for the big tax cuts and tax reform – that will be next,” the president told reporters. Ryan insisted the healthcare plan’s failure is not a “prologue for other future things.”

On Friday, Ryan conceded that Republicans still have not figured out how to govern. “We were a ten-year opposition party where being against things was easy to do . . . and now, in three months’ time we’ve tried to go to a governing party, where we actually had to get 216 people to try and agree with each other on how to do things,” he observed. “We weren’t just quite there today. We’ll get there.”

The next few months will show if he’s being overly optimistic.

About the Author

Emily Cadei covers government, international affairs, and economics for OZY, a digital news and culture site.