Republicans have taken a well-deserved credibility hit after yet another health-care failure. The party’s candidates ran for seven years on the platform of abolishing Obamacare, only to shrink up when it came time to deliver, like bar-stool loudmouths called out to back up their risible bluster.
A handful of partisans still hold out hope that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can employ procedural tricks to keep alive some version of the party’s health-care bill. But that’s likely wishful thinking. Republicans are better off moving forward to a more unifying issue such as tax reform.
The next few weeks will be predictable. For all their chortling at the GOP’s inability to come together on health care, Democrats really want no part of Obamacare, the passage of which coincides with the party’s massive electoral losses throughout many parts of the country. Instead, they’ll now pressure Republicans to shower billions on a bail out of the imploding Affordable Care Act or again risk being labeled baby killers and cruel gerontophobes.
But caving to those inevitable progressive attacks and the accompanying media pressure would be a mistake. “Let Obamacare fail,” Donald Trump said on Tuesday. “I’m not going down with it.” That may sound harsh. But perhaps the only way to get Democrats to the table on health care — and to move weak-kneed Republicans now petrified of following through on their campaign rhetoric — is to allow Obamacare to burn itself out like a remote wildfire rather than try to control its destruction.
If there’s one bright spot for the GOP in all this, perhaps the setback on health care will prove an incentive to succeed on tax reform.
While “health care is pulling apart the various strands of the Republican coalition,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Sieb on Tuesday, “tax cuts could unite them.” Mr. Seib goes on to point out that “the idea of lowering rates and simplifying the tax code is one Republicans are almost desperate to rally around.”
It’s also an issue that might attract a modicum of Democratic support, particularly in the Senate, where the party faces a number of challenging midterm races. CNBC reported this week that the Trump administration plans a “more coordinated” approach to taxes, with the president making “the case to Midwest states he won in the general election while the White House enlists CEOs to serve as influencers.”
Tax reform will no doubt prove as politically complicated as health care, if not more so. There’s a reason it’s been more than 30 years since the last significant tax legislation emerged from Congress. But if Republicans and White House can succeed in boosting growth and unleashing the economy through tax reform and simplification, their disappointing breakdown on health care will fade into the footnotes.