It is all the rage among Democrats and their allies in the media to talk about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian attorney last year, but in the meantime, congressional Republicans are on the brink of doing something really important, specifically - having a vote that has been seven years in the making to bring an end to the era of Obamacare. The upcoming Senate vote is existential for the Republican Party and keeping our congressional majorities in 2018.
The talk from Washington would have you believe Republicans are destined to fail on repeal and replace, but it is never a good idea to underestimate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
By all accounts, Republicans are still a few votes short of 50. All eyes appear to be on Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, and a few others, ranging from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who are not firmly committed.
Remember, Heller was already in the cross hairs of the president’s allies, who called him out early on for not supporting Republicans in the health-care fight. And, at this point, it remains to be seen whether he will vote with the GOP to repeal and replace Obamacare or be known as the man who saved Obamacare.
With so much riding on the health-care reform bill’s success, President Donald Trump chimed in on Twitter Friday morning:
“So impt Rep Senators, under leadership of SenateMajLdr McConnell get healthcare plan approved. After 7yrs of O’Care disaster, must happen!”
Maybe more conservatives are warming to the bill. But, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board made clear in Friday’s piece, “ObamaCare Moment of Truth,” moderates have “extorted almost everything they asked for and then some” since Republicans first began crafting language to repeal and replace Obamacare. But as of Friday, the GOP is still a few votes short.
Imagine a universe in which Republicans are in power and they can’t get the votes to right the great wrong that is Obamacare. A Republican Congress and a Republican White House would then have to use their governing power to sustain some version of the broken Obamacare to deliver health care to millions of Americans. I don’t want to imagine Republicans running for reelection in 2018 saying that was the best they could do.
Obamacare believers will still never support Republicans, and Republicans and Independents who expect something to be done about Obamacare will believe Republican governance has completely failed.
Anyway, it could be that if Republicans don’t have the votes next week, maybe there won’t be a crashing defeat, but a nonevent. I asked former RNC chairman Haley Barbour what he thought and he said: “If McConnell doesn’t have the votes next week, I don’t think he’ll quit. More likely, he’ll set the bill aside and turn to other business, like the budget and appropriations, confirmations and, perhaps, start tax reform. But he’ll continue to try to improve the health-care reform bill and return to it when he thinks he has the votes. People - especially the news media - seem to forget it took the Democrats fourteen months to pass Obamacare, and they had sixty senators most of the time. Republicans have been working on this for six months.”
While failure on Obamacare does not mean we are destined to lose both majorities in November 2018, it certainly puts us on that trajectory.
The ball is in Mitch McConnell’s court. Every Republican should light a candle and say their prayers for him.
The GOP is in peril.
Ed Rogers is a political consultant and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded in 1991 with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.