Thursday, March 23, 2017

Battle over the AHCA

In NRO, I look at the possibility of the American Health Care Act (which is supposed to be voted on Friday) exacerbating tensions between conservatives and populists:
While it achieves many longstanding priorities for Beltway Republicans, [the AHCA] contains some provisions that could alienate members of the working class, such as Medicaid cuts. It is telling that elements of the Right who have been very sympathetic to populist themes — such as Ann Coulter, many Breitbart writers, and Arkansas senator Tom Cotton — have been unsparing in their criticism of the AHCA. The bill itself is currently extremely unpopular, supported by only 17 percent of Americans according to the latest numbers from Quinnipiac.
It might be especially divisive for the Republican coalition. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was premised upon outreach to working-class voters, and an improved performance with this demographic was crucial for breaking the “blue wall” at the presidential level and for the GOP’s successful defense of its Senate majority.
You can read the rest over there.

Things are so fluid with the AHCA that I'll defer making any predictions.  Instead, a few random observations.

If the AHCA does pass tomorrow, President Trump's decision to say that he'll stop negotiating tonight (pass the current bill, or I'll move on) could make him look like he's someone who knows how to work his will on Congress.  So it could foster an image of him being a "strong leader."  Of course, the AHCA passing also means that House Republicans will have signed on to a less-than-popular bill, one with real potential to divide the GOP coalition.  It also means that President Trump will get either the credit or the blame for this bill.  It's also hard to see what happens in the Senate in taking up the AHCA; it's very possible that the things that made this bill pass the House will make it very hard for it to pass the Senate.

If the AHCA fails, the White House and Republicans may be free to move on to other policies, ones that might be more popular.  Michael Brendan Dougherty, for instance, has suggested that the GOP consider some of the policy areas that were at the center of the Trump campaign, such as infrastructure, trade, and immigration.  They might also be able to take on healthcare in a way that circumvents some of the tensions heightened by the AHCA (see my NRO post for more thoughts on that).  The failure of the AHCA might cause a few negative newscycles ("Republicans in disarray!!!1"), but it's unclear whether a defeat tomorrow will have a lasting effect on the GOP agenda.

The GOP runs grave political risks if it does not attempt to promote policies that deliver for the working class. It might be especially politically risky for President Trump to disappoint the core of his populist support.

Reforms to make healthcare cheaper and to expand the insurance market could be a way for the GOP to promote healthcare reform in a less politically risky way; this approach might also do a lot of good to improve access to medical care.

A good bill passed slowly is far better for a governing party than a bad bill passed quickly.

No comments:

Post a Comment