The Imaginary Binary Decision on Trumpcare
I do not envy the job of House Speaker Paul Ryan. Passing any sort of meaningful legislation requires the Speaker of the House to form consensus between his most liberal and conservative members. This task’s difficultly could be comparable to herding cats. Nevertheless, the task of forming consensus is not impossible and does not make me have any sympathy towards the Speaker or other House leaders. I especially cut House leadership no slack when the methods they use to form consensus are borderline indefensible or just flat out lies.
The House leadership’s use of indefensible political tactics began with not having a bill ready that was backed by all Republicans after 7 years of running on “Repeal and Replace”. Then the leadership team proceeded to not consult any of its conservative members in the making of the plan(called the American Health Care act but I prefer Eric Erickson’s name for it “Swampcare”) and rolling it out after keeping its details secret for weeks. Now they are attempting to fast-track the legislation through Congress to avoid debate about its details and bludgeon opponents into submission through public pressure. This is where the lying begins…
Speaker Paul Ryan has begun to take the stance in interviews and presentations that Congressional opponents of the AHCA have a “binary choice” between the repeal plan being put forward and keeping Obamacare. This line is the bludgeon that Speak Ryan and other House leaders such as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Whip Steve Scalise will use in attempts to beat conservative Republicans into voting for the legislation. They are presenting the idea to the public that any Republican member of congress that votes against the plan is voting in favor of Obamacare. The notion that members of Congress have a binary choice between Swampcare and Obamacare is a lie on par with the “bowling green massacre” or Trump’s record electoral college victory.
Conservative opponents are not choosing Obamacare by voting against Swampcare, they are voting in favor of actually keeping their promises to replace Obamacare with a free market healthcare system that expands choice and lowers cost. Claiming a choice is binary implies that Swampcare is the only alternative to Obamacare. This could not be farther from the truth because the alternatives are endless. If Republican leadership was smart they would go back to the drawing board and roll out a brand new bill after assuring approval of all Republicans in Congress. There are other plans that have been proposed that could be voted on such as the Mark Sanford/Rand Paul plan. Point is that this binary choice being presented by Ryan is an imaginary scenario meant to try to force opponents to vote for the bill.
I was surprised at this tactic from Speaker Ryan honestly. This tactic is something I would expect from experienced establishment leaders such as Mitch McConnell or John Boehner who would want nothing more than to crush the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus. The binary choice gives Republican leadership two options either conservatives vote from the AHCA or they get the blame from “keeping Obamacare in place” and maybe get ousted in the 2018 midterm elections. From McConnell or Boehner this would be expected, but from the Speaker that tries to portray himself as the conservative golden boy of the establishment it is surprisingly bold move. This is an extremely foolish long game alternative because if Republicans fail to pass a health care bill that replaces Obamacare 2018 will be a bloodbath for all Republicans, not just conservative opponents.
The Republican establishment is being forced to make bold moves right now because in its current form the bill’s chances of passing are equivalent to me my chances of being taken in the first round of the NBA draft. Rep. Mark Meadows, who chairs the 29-member House Freedom Caucus, has come out strongly against the AHCA. This puts Swampcare’s chances of passing the House in jeopardy despite Speaker Ryan’s guarantee of passing. Even if the AHCA squeaks by in the House, 3 Senators (Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Tom Cotton) have come out against the bill which is enough to kill the bill.
So Speaker Ryan it turns out you have a choice binary choice: fix the bill or 2018 will be a bloodbath for Republicans everywhere, including you.