The GOP establishment's "repeal and replace" bill has gone down in flames. Not that it repealed Obamacare, it just changed a little bit. And not that it was a particularly good replacement. It did absolutely none of the things the Republicans of been promising for the last several years.
The big question is, where do Republicans go from here? From the looks of things, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, and the rest of the GOP establishment are going to learn absolutely nothing from this exercise. They'll keep health care reform on the shelf for now and move on to tax reform, while figuring out ways to retaliate against conservatives who refused to vote for Ryan's bill.
One has to wonder just what the Republican leadership was thinking by trying for this particular bill. They started promising "repeal and replace" almost as soon as Obamacare was passed. They've been raising money on "repeal and replace" for years. They had absolutely no problem passing several repeal bills when they knew that President Obama would veto them. But now, when the Republican Party has all the power it's been begging for, "repeal and replace" is untenable. According to Ryan and McCarthy, their slight modification of Obamacare is the "most conservative bill we're going to get." We were all just supposed to take it on faith that they would follow through with Phase 2 and Phase 3 of their supposed three-phase plan. Because, you know, they're completely, totally, and in all other ways trustworthy. According to them, now that their bill has been defeated, "repeal and replace" is a lost cause.
In President Trump's statement after Paul Ryan shelved the bill, he made it sound as though he had nothing to do with this healthcare scheme. In fact, he made it sound like he had never mentioned "repeal and replace" at all during his campaign. According to Donald Trump, letting Obamacare fail was his plan all along. But, truth be told, the president didn't really seem to care about what was actually in the bill. He ran on repeal and replace, but in his public statements during the campaign, he actually wanted something more socialist than either Obamacare or the bill Republican leadership produced.
While, by all appearances, the president and the Republican establishment will be blaming the Freedom Caucus for this defeat, the truth is, they only got what was coming to them. Republicans were very critical not only of the content of Obamacare, but also of the process used to foist it on the American people. And in their effort to reform Obamacare, not only did the content of their bill greatly resemble that of the law they sought to replace, but they practically used the same process, as well.
They wrote the bill in secret. Before its release, they kept in a locked room, even going to the lengths of having an armed guard posted outside the door.
Once the bill was released, they rushed it through the committee process, much the same way the Democrats did with the original Obama care bill. There was hardly time for the representatives to have read the bill, before they were expected to pass it out of Committee.
Then, once they realized they were going to have a hard time getting the votes they needed to pass the bill, it was time for the arm twisting, the horse trading, the same kind of intimidation tactics and backroom deals that the Democrats used to get their own people on board eight years ago.
So why did Ryan/Trumpcare fail? The Republican leadership wasn't just watering down Obamacare. This was their Obamacare. While they may try to blame their own failure on the conservatives who expected better from their own Party, the simple truth is that Trump, Ryan, and McCarthy should have known better.
There are plenty of other, better options than watered-down Obamacare and empty promises. Republicans had eight years to work on a plan to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, and there are several perfectly good replacement plans out there, most notably one by Senator Rand Paul. But instead of trying to work with conservatives, and instead of actually trying to keep their promises, the Republican leadership tried to emulate their real heroes, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Heck, President Trump even threw out some arrogant remark about "I'm the president and you're not," very similar to something President Obama said during the debate over Obamacare.
The moral of this story should be that Republicans will never win when they try to be Democrats. Will men like Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, and Donald Trump learn this lesson? Only time will tell... but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.