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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Ruling class GOP leaders make Obamacare repeal the art of the impossible

Envision yourself in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s shoes as he faces the backlash stemming from the introduction of the upper chamber’s version of healthcare legislation last week.

Conservatives clearly weren’t happy with the bill as written; “moderate” Republicans were decidedly noncommittal and Democrats were, let’s just say, a little less than enthused about the proposal.

Mitch McConnellMany commentators argued the Senate GOP’s bill is weaker and even less of an Obamacare repeal than was the House version which passed almost two months ago. That isn’t good news for the country, but is it the most conservatives can expect?

David Catron wrote in The American Spectator, “[W]e will be forced to live with Obamacare — in its current dysfunctional form — for decades if headline hounds like ‘Grandstand Rand’ Paul insist on sprinting from one broadcast studio to another braying about insurance for $1 a day and parroting Democrat talking points like the following: ‘The insurance companies make all the money; all of this is predicated upon still propping up the insurance companies.’ Senators Cruz, Heller, Johnson, and Lee are not as irresponsible as Paul, but they tend to resist the reality that politics is the art of the possible…

“Conservatives know that Obamacare should be eradicated root and branch. But full repeal just isn’t politically possible in 2017. So, it’s time to face reality and get rid of as much of this abomination as we can now. AHCA/BCRA isn’t perfect but it’s a damn good start.”

Catron’s point is well taken – except for maybe the “Grandstand Rand” part -- though it’s probably worth exploring why it is that full repeal of Obamacare isn’t politically possible today. In this circumstance, all roads lead straight to the Washington establishment.

As a leading card-carrying member of the Beltway ruling class, McConnell must figure when nobody’s happy with a piece of legislation that he’s finally got something to work with. The only drawback is months from now when folks awaken from their post bill-passing euphoric stupors (just happy that something was done) Republicans will be saddled with the after-effects.

It appears the Republican establishment has almost purposely placed itself in a no-win position. After being handed majorities in both houses of Congress and Donald Trump’s surprising (to some) victory last November, Americans expected one, Republicans to finally start keeping their promises, and two, to actually accomplish something on the conservative agenda.

The Senate healthcare bill doesn’t persuasively satisfy either expectation.

It’s becoming obvious that point one never existed to begin with. The Republican Party, not unlike its counterpart, is made up of a group of people whose singular ambition is to win elections. Consequently, you have some true-believing principled conservatives who run and win in conservative, mostly rural districts; you also have those who were conservatives at one time but were then coopted by the establishment (a good argument could be made Paul Ryan fits here), and lastly there are “moderates” in swing districts who will do and say just about anything to keep their high-profile jobs in Congress.

These ideologically challenged pols are the type that is lampooned in every satirical treatment of the political business. They likely acquire their issue positions from the morning newspaper – or worse, from consultants, who in turn form their recommendations based on focus groups and time spent eavesdropping on conversations between what are supposed to be a non-partisan cross-section of voters.

The only problem is the voters these political pros are listening to have their own set of biases and prejudices. Common sense says there isn’t anyone in America that is truly “undecided” if they’re educated on the issues and have immersed themselves in fact. Therefore, all the “independent” voters who determine close elections are the uninformed ones most susceptible to media slanting, traditional value-shaming (“Support the LGBTQ agenda or you’re a bigot!”) and the whims of the political moment.

The “moderates” in Congress have enslaved themselves to these people. Since they have few principles of their own they’re able to sway from one position to the next like prairie grass in a windstorm. They make all sorts of promises to get elected -- “I will repeal Obamacare!” – but when it comes time to actually vote in Congress, they lose their nerve.

At that instant Mitch McConnell and the rest of the establishment swoops in and the deal is done – or should I say not done. The powers that be tell the “moderates” that it’s okay to break their campaign promises to the people – after all, those dumb yokels don’t really understand what they voted for, right?

Therefore, much of what is accomplished by Congress is watered down and virtually useless. Not only does it fail to solve problems it basically creates more. If Obamacare were allowed to implode on its own a lot of people would be hurt; but if the Republicans pass something that doesn’t address the real issue a lot of people will be hurt and they’ll be stuck holding the proverbial bag, too.

Hence, the no-win situation McConnell and the feckless GOP establishment leadership have gotten themselves into.

Others seem to agree the political repercussions from failure to act will be severe.

John Fund wrote at National Review, “[W]hen it comes to the politics of health care, Republicans find themselves in a tight corner. They regained control of Congress in large part due to their opposition to Obamacare. Now, if a few of GOP senators block even the imperfect bill before them, the entire party will be blamed and will suffer at the polls for falsely advertising they would act on health-care reform.

“It would be truly ironic if Republicans suffered steep losses or even effective control of Congress over the very issue that brought them back to power in the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. In the end, keeping promises counts in politics — even inattentive voters can spot and punish hypocrisy.”

Tell this to the Republican establishment. The two-way conundrum has them pushing legislation that must pass in order for Republicans to keep their promises, but the bill itself breaks the guarantees they made in the first place. Who wins in this scenario?

Is it the “moderates?” No; the longer they are permitted by the supposedly conservative GOP leadership to run roughshod over the legislative process in order to preserve federal goodies for some pet constituency the more dysfunctional Congress will become. If Republicans’ campaign promise was to “repeal and replace” Obamacare it begins with a straight repeal; short of that, at least the “replace” part better address the core concerns with Obama’s signature law, mainly its cost to consumers.

Certainly a reasonable compromise between the leadership and conservatives could help ease the tensions. Senator Ted Cruz could have the answer. Jessie Hellmann of The Hill reported, “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wants to offer an amendment to the Senate healthcare bill that would allow insurers to sell plans that are not compliant with ObamaCare requirements.

“The ‘Consumer Freedom Amendment’ would leave existing ObamaCare plans on the individual market, while also allowing insurers to sell plans that don't comply with requirements of the Affordable Care Act.”

Cruz’s suggestion is brilliant in its simplicity. House Freedom Caucus member Jim Jordan likes Cruz’s amendment. Other notable conservatives have echoed Jordan’s approval.

All of which probably indicates the revision will go nowhere, especially since Cruz’s name is attached to the idea – and the establishment hates the conservative Texas senator. No doubt, a grassroots campaign will help with at least getting Cruz’s idea voted on. It’s about time people stood up and let their representatives and senators know where they stand.

The entitled will cry foul if their subsidies are phased out or eliminated, but there are always ways to shore up the social safety net. Republicans lose track of what’s important when they hear only the voices of those complaining the loudest about what they’ll miss if something is passed or if Obamacare is deservedly thrown into the trash bin of history.

If we’re truly going to imagine ourselves in Mitch McConnell’s position we’d better get the gumption to keep our promises and accomplish something at the same time. Otherwise Republicans will fail and the whole country loses.

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There is little doubt but

There is little doubt but that many RINOs need to be moved out of the Congress. The only way to do that is to run real true conservatives against them in the primaries and beat them there. However, if the real conservatives lose in the primary, you cannot just bury your head in the sand and not vote for the guy that won because he is the one that is going to represent you for a while in Congress, or a total libturd will take his place and will represent only themselves. That is just pure fact. We have to change the Republican party but the chances of doing it in one election are slim.