By Clayton Huckaby
Kern Valley Sun
On Friday, President Trump faced the realization that having both a House of Representatives and a Senate that are controlled by your party does not always equate to easy victories, especially when it comes to matters that are as complex as health care.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, colloquially referred to as “Obamacare,” remains, in the words of House Speaker Paul Ryan, “the law of the land” because House Republicans were unable to reach a consensus on the direction of their new bill, the American Health Care Reform Act (AHCA). It was rumored that the bill was short approximately 20 votes, although that is not confirmed as Speaker Ryan pulled the bill before it could go to vote on the house floor. This lack of consensus highlights the reality of American politics, namely that despite the apparent duality of our politics, there is a spectrum of conservative to liberal that exists within the frameworks of both major parties.
This was readily apparent in the Democratic Party with the plethora of differences between establishment candidate Hillary Clinton and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders. This spectrum also exists inside the Republican Party, and it is to blame for the breakdown of the AHCA. The Freedom Caucus was the main source of contention for the establishment Republicans. The Freedom Caucus is a group of representatives that can only be described as “ultra-conservative.”
Led by Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the Freedom Caucus believed that the AHCA did not go far enough in repealing contentious provisions in Obamacare. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio defended his fellow representatives on their decision to oppose the AHCA. Jordan said, “Maybe the fact that we opposed it did the country a favor because this bill didn’t repeal Obamacare.” He continued saying, “This bill didn’t do what we told the American people we were going to do.”
This level of ideological purity has been leveled against the Freedom Caucus by President Trump, Speaker Ryan and even a former member. Texas representative Ted Poe said, “Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that is what we were elected to do. Leaving this caucus will allow me to be a more effective member of Congress and advocate for the people of Texas. It is time to lead.” The Freedom Caucus, although the most numerous of the opposition outside of the Democratic Party, was not the only faction opposing the bill. Moderate Republicans also accounted for a number of the bill’s opponents but for different reasons than the caucus.
Moderate Republicans are those outside of the establishment who are simply more liberal than the core of the party. These people usually come from more contended districts that could lose their seat if people perceive the new health care bill to be problematic for them.
Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said, “I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals.” Likewise, Robb Whitman of Virginia said, “I do not think this bill will do what is necessary for the short and long-term best interests of Virginians and therefore, I must oppose it.”
This ideological contention may continue to plague the Republican Party in the future. The Freedom Caucus specifically, with its 30 members, will act as a buffer pulling the Republican Party further to the right. On the moderate side, however, the Democratic Party will be able to leverage their ideological similarities with moderate Republicans to gain traction in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is likely that for health care to pass, the Republican Party is going to have to work with the Democrats to make it happen. This bipartisanship, in the long run, would probably be considered by most to be a welcome change to “politics as usual” in Washington.
Other than compromise with the Democratic Party, it is possible that the Republicans will concede to the Freedom Caucus. This seems unlikely considering the political backlash that could result for members outside of ultra-conservative districts. The defeat of the bill is also likely to have repercussions on President Trump’s promise for tax reform as his political clout was badly damaged. Despite this, tax reform is likely to get strong support from both the core party and the Freedom Caucus making it less politically contentious than health care.