Punting Healthcare

May 8, 2017 - American Politics

Congratulations to the Trump White House and the House of Representatives for passing their almighty “repeal and replace” health care solution. Truly, everything that has been promised will now come to pass. Sunshine and puppies for all and sundry.

Well… wait, no. To say this bill is competent is to deny the reality that none of the 217 people who voted for it want to talk about that vote, or defend that decision. Instead it’s “let us celebrate” and very little indication as to why that should be done beyond the basic politicized platitudes involved in doing something the other side didn’t want you to.

It would all seem quite childish if there wasn’t a sober scheme backing the entire endeavor. House Republicans don’t really think they’ve accomplished anything of substance on health care and know there’s no substantive argument to be made defending their votes. However, since that’s not what they’re actually celebrating, we shouldn’t really be surprised. This isn’t naivete or malevolence being touted as a form of victory. Instead, it’s a celebration of the almighty political punt.

This celebration concerns two points: firstly, that the House wanted to hand Trump a “win” and remain in his good graces, such as they are, particularly after the debacle that was the last stab at this exact process. Say whatever you like about the Gorsuch appointment, it wasn’t a material win for the Trump administration in any way. What I mean by that is that any given Republican president would have achieved the same thing, in the same way. Trump knows that too, that the appointment is the product of a McConnell-run capture of a judicial vacancy.

Secondly, the celebration is about relief: the bill, which cannot pass the Senate, has been handed off to the Senate to contend with. Whatever happens to it now, House Republicans are certain, is the Senate’s problem. If the Senate votes it through, it’s their fault for not performing the duties of an upper chamber. If they block it, it’s their fault for defying the will of the American people. If they mess with it (as they certainly will), the resulting too-many-cooks hash can still at least partially be blamed on them. One way or another, the House Republicans come out of this saying they took “action” and the Senate are the do-nothings.

Impress your boss, pass the buck, what’s not to like in this plan? Sure, it doesn’t meaningfully address either the existing challenges of the Affordable Care Act or the catastrophic damage the new bill plots to do to those of lesser means, including many American veterans, but who cares, right? The important thing here is blame. House Republicans had it, and now they’ve punted it upward.

Now to just hope the American public forgets by 2018.

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