It’s January 10. Do you know where your Obamacare replacement bill is?
No? Well, don’t freak out.
Of course, you are being advised to freak out, mostly by people who don’t want Obamacare to be repealed. They want you to believe that disagreement within GOP ranks about how to go about repealing and replacing the little-lamented law demonstrates a Republican inability or unwillingness to govern. Maybe both.
This is, to quote a great man, pure applesauce. “The GOP doesn’t have a plan” might be the silliest talking point the left has about Republicans and Obamacare, and there’s a great deal of competition for that title. What the GOP doesn’t have is unity about which approach to take. This is — for those of you born yesterday — something that happens quite often in legislatures regarding contentious topics.
The aged among you may even recall that Democrats circa 2009 lacked unity about what Obamacare ought to look like in the first place. Would there be a public option? Or only a public option, the dread “Medicare for all”? Would there be an individual mandate? How should it be enforced? Even once these disagreements were mostly ironed out, there were holdouts among the Democratic caucus. There were the now-extinct “Blue Dogs” with concerns about abortion language. It took the “Cornhusker Kickback” to win over Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the “Louisiana Purchase” to secure the vote of that state’s Sen. Mary Landrieu, and various other carve-outs and slush funds to bring the likes of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Carl Levin on board.
Note that all of this took place months after the inauguration of a man who campaigned on making health reform a priority. I don’t recall any breathless “where’s the plan?” jeremiads before Barack Obama had even taken the oath of office.
Yet, 10 days before Donald Trump succeeds him, that’s what we’re getting about the lack of a concrete plan. The critics contend congressional Republicans have had seven years to come up with a plan, which is true as far as it goes. Then again, not all congressional Republicans have been in office the past seven years — and those who have been there, at least for part of the time, have come up with plans, some of which are still being considered. Let’s also not forget the biggest newcomer to Washington of all, the one who not only is essential to repeal and replace but whose approval of the eventual plan is mandatory because he will be associated with it until the end of time, is Trump himself.
There never was “a” Republican plan the past seven years because there was no Republican president. Whenever a Republican president was elected, that person was going to demand to have a lot of input into the process, and rightly so. There was never going to be “a” Republican plan without that person.
And that person, Trump, won’t be president for another week and a half. He campaigned on repealing Obamacare and replacing it, didn’t offer much in the way of details for how he’d accomplish that, and won anyway. It can hardly be shocking that he and the new Congress have not yet hammered out what they want to do.
Nor is it particularly surprising that those who are dedicated to stymieing Trump’s presidency are at pains to claim he and the GOP are already in disastrous disarray. Newsflash: If Trump and Congress did already have a plan, the very same critics would be saying it was a slapdash arrangement created in haste — and that this also proved Trump and Congress were incapable of governing.
It’s possible the president and Congress won’t be able to agree on a plan, which certainly would spell doom for the Republican Party. But the fact they don’t already have one as they’re just getting started is not cause for alarm.