Guest Opinion: Trump lucky health care bill failed

​The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer
March 27
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President Donald Trump took some shots at Democrats for not supporting the Republican “replacement” for the Affordable Care Act — a ludicrous position given Trump’s blasts at President Barack Obama and Democrats over a year’s worth of campaigning — and he had a little chagrin for the Freedom Caucus tea partyers who thought the GOP replacement too generous. But there didn’t seem to be a lot of bombast except in his attempts to predict the end of “Obamacare,” when in fact the program is working for roughly 20 million Americans.

What really happened here was a stroke of unintended good luck for Trump. He’ll be a little bruised by defeat for a while, but the GOP replacement was a mess that likely would have left 20 million-plus people without insurance. Republicans didn’t even seem to understand it. And though Trump was twisting arms — he wanted a victory, no matter how nonsensical the replacement was — he also seemed pretty eager to move on to the rest of his agenda while waiting for the ACA to “explode,” as he put it.

This debate proved that Republicans in the end don’t really have much concern for middle-class and lower-income Americans who lack adequate health care. They’d have been happy simply to repeal the ACA and leave people to the mercies of the free market. But because millions were covered, and kicking those people to the curb might have been a political disaster, House Speaker Paul Ryan moved ahead with his plan, a shadow of a plan, really, the outcome of which was wildly unpredictable. It was as if Republicans wanted to pass “their” plan, any plan, just to say they’d eliminated President Obama’s signature and accomplishment.

House Speaker John Boehner long ago predicted Republicans wouldn’t scuttle the ACA, but would fix it, call it conservative and pretty much leave it in place. He wasn’t exactly right, but it certainly seemed in some ways that Trump was eager to put all this behind him. He’ll tweet and blast Democrats some more, and to be sure Republicans aren’t done fiddling with the ACA, but Trump never really understood the ACA anyway, and he couldn’t care less about the tea party ideology that focused on attacking it.

Trump wants to move on with tax cuts for the rich and the dismantling of environmental regulations and the easing of rules protecting consumers from Wall Street greed. And he will.

That’s not good news for working Americans, either, of course, but for now, the president’s unearned good luck is at least a reprieve for 20 million Americans who were scared to death they were about to lose their health insurance.

Trump’s not going to like the attention he’ll get, as the commentators he says he doesn’t watch (but he does watch) talk about his “defeat” and how he was repudiated by some in his own party and how he’s shown ignorance of how to make deals in Washington.

First up, no doubt, will be another “victory tour,” where Trump will go to rallies to hear the cheers of the crowd as he attacks Democrats for not taking his side. Once he’s gotten his fill of that (though he probably never will) he can huddle with his advisers and set his next priorities. For now, the health care debate is where he wants it — behind him.