Ryancare Will Destroy The Republican Majority

Failing to repeal Obamacare would be “the ultimate betrayal of the electorate.” That’s what Charles Krauthammer said just last month. He was right. Congressional Republicans have been defined by nothing so much as their opposition to Obamacare since 2009. That opposition has been the source of four successful elections that have seen Republicans gain 62 seats in the House, 12 seats in the Senate, and now control of the White House.

Given the dubious circumstances surrounding the passage of Obamacare in 2010, it should be no surprise that resistance to its mandates has proved so durable. Throughout the entire debate in 2009 and 2010 the legislation was wildly unpopular. So eager was Obama to pass the bill it required shady deals like the infamous “Cornhusker Kickback,” false promises (“if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”), and playing games with House rules to pass it under the reconciliation procedure reserved for tax measures. Even after all that, 34 Democrats joined every House Republican in voting against the bill. The story was the same in the Senate where not a single Republican voted for Obamacare.

Still, the healthcare bill offered by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) seems like a premeditated act of defiance against the expressed desires of his own base. And it is an obvious contradiction of Ryan’s own rhetoric.

For seven years Republicans have campaigned against Obamacare. They’ve recited its manifold deficiencies and depredations so many times that voters know them by heart: It imposes an unworkable and morally objectionable requirement on Americans to buy health insurance whether they want it or not, it raises costs, reduces choice, and leads to rationing.

All of these things are true and ordinary Americans have felt the consequences. Premiums have skyrocketed, people have lost coverage, businesses have closed as a result of the Obamacare mandates, the exchanges have gone bankrupt, and insurance companies still haven’t figured out how to make money in the individual market. Through it all the Republicans have promised to repeal “the government takeover of healthcare” if only voters would give them power.

And they did. Voters provided the money and the votes to give Republicans the power they said they needed to repeal Obamacare. Hundreds of millions of dollars flowed into Republican coffers. The 2010 midterm elections were an historic rebuke to the Democrats as a direct result of their Obamacare votes. But that wasn’t enough. Republican leaders testified repeatedly that they wanted to repeal Obamacare and surely they would if only they controlled the Senate. Then Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) liked to remind impatient voters that Republicans only “controlled one-half of one-third of the government.”

In 2014 voters gave Republicans what they said they needed—control of the Senate. But with that victory still fresh, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said even that wasn’t enough. He wanted to repeal Obamacare but his hands were tied—the president would surely veto any such legislation. What they needed was a Republican president. And in 2016 they got one. Now voters want the Obamacare repeal they have been promised. But Ryan’s healthcare bill does no such thing.

Warning signs were everywhere as soon as Congress got back to Washington. As early as January, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) told The Hill, “I’m hearing a lot of members say that they want Obamacare-lite. That’s not what we promised the American people.”

No it’s not, but that’s what Paul Ryan has proposed. His bill leaves the infrastructure of Obamacare in place and creates a massive new federal healthcare entitlement program in the form of refundable tax credits. These credits are just camouflage for government checks to buy health insurance. They are unwise and unaffordable in their infancy under the Ryan plan but everyone knows the size and scope of the program will only grow over time.

The Republican leadership thinks that their half-measures and clever branding are a sign of moderation and prudence but they are courting disaster. They apparently learned nothing about the fury of scorned voters during the last election.

President Trump has signaled support for the Ryan plan but he has also been cagey in his wording and if it heads south he can be expected to blame Congress. Wavering legislators tempted to support the Ryan plan should recall that Barack Obama promised congressional Democrats that he had their back in 2010 before watching them lose 62 seats in the House.

The issue is simple—perhaps too simple for Washington: people want Obamacare repealed. The fact is that whatever its shortcomings (and there were many), American health care was better before Obamacare than it is today. Prices were lower, deductibles were lower, and there were more and better choices for both insurance and care.

Donald Trump promised to restore the good things about the pre-Obamacare system and to enact some common sense reforms. A week before the November election he said, “If we don’t repeal and replace Obamacare, we will destroy American health care forever—it’s one of the single most important reasons why we must win on November 8. Our replacement plan includes Health Savings Accounts, a nationwide insurance market where you can purchase across state lines, and letting states manage Medicaid dollars.”

But that is not the Ryan plan.

There are no Health Savings Accounts, no nationwide insurance market, and even the Medicaid promise is suspect. When Republican voters heard repeal and replace they thought they were getting HSAs and the ability to buy insurance across state lines. What they’re getting is expanded Medicaid and a budget busting new entitlement program. That wasn’t the deal.

Whatever support President Trump has shown this bill it will be congressional Republicans who pay the price for supporting it. They will face the wrath of the base for turning their backs on the oft-repeated promise to repeal Obamacare. They’ve raised untold millions on the back of that promise. They’ve won election after election because voters were willing to trust—or at least take a chance—on that promise.

Having found a sure political winner, Republicans seem intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If they pass the bill currently under consideration they will own the healthcare disaster that, until now, had Barack Obama’s name on it. And they will have betrayed the people who put them in office just months after returning to Washington.

Republican legislators eager to just pass something and claim victory would be wise to remember that their base agrees with former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: “Republicans who want to retreat from repeal to repair should be replaced.”

About Chris Buskirk

Chris is publisher and editor of American Greatness and the host of The Chris Buskirk Show. He was a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute and received a fellowship from the Earhart Foundation. Chris is a serial entrepreneur who has built and sold businesses in financial services and digital marketing. He is a frequent guest on NPR's "Morning Edition." His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Hill, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter at @TheChrisBuskirk

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39 responses to “Ryancare Will Destroy The Republican Majority”

  1. I’m thinking, (hoping really) that Trump and his folks are letting Ryan have just enough rope. Tonight in Kentucky he pumped up McConnell and prodded him in front of the crowd. I bet McConnell was beside himself,.. just off stage, in his state, with a rabid pro-Trump crowd. I think Trump knows what he’s doing. It’s not DC politics for sure, but he’s playing McConnell and Ryan… he knows they are bought and paid for and have desires for many reelctions. He’s outplayed everyone so far, so we’ll see. His instincts appear to be unmatched by the political class…

  2. 2 quizzes. –

    [1] Are Ryan and Co presenting their preposterous bill because
    (a) It gratifies insurance companies looking for monopolies and THAT part of the Chamber of Commerce owns them, as so many other parts do?
    (b) Their mediocrity of character, their lack of vision, their essential cowardice and feebleness, prevents them from EVER making a drastic break with anything, any drastic decision (e.g. their failure to date to start impeachment proceedings for the District Court judges who have overruled the Constitution and the Law in opposing President Trump’s travel moratoria)?
    (c) both motives?

    [2] Are the People ever going to replace these bed-blockers (most Republicans in the Congress) with patriots who really care for their country and their fellow-citizens?

    • The anti-Trumpians’ plan is to impeach our President before the 2018 elections, much the same way they brought down President Nixon in August of 1974.
      We are in a Civil war. the first was against the party of Lincoln, the second against the party of Trump.

    • Pete, I’m not hopeful. $4 trillion flows through Wash DC every year. McConnells, Ryans, Pelosis,
      Reids, and Schumers smell that money. They flock to it. They steal whatever they can. A nuke on the corrupt Capitol City might work for awhile, but then you and me would go there, and be the same. Afterall, this is a world that Satan rules.

      • In essence I agree. Unless human beings make themselves over COMPLETELY to God in Christ, then they are successfully run by Satan and do keep taking the wrong turnings (at best).

        But equally I find it hard to suppose that if the fine Paul Nehlen had been elected in the Wisconsin primary last summer, and not Paul Ryan, Nehlen would have jumped at spending his time in the Congress being bribed and suborned.

  3. Obamacare has destroyed the health insurance system that we had. We can’t just wish it back to existence. A private insurance system is, therefore, not available to tweak into “better than it was”. On the other hand, we​ can’t afford not to change the system that we have now. If we don’t want government in the healthcare business, but neither want people to suffer (or, to read Mr. Buskirk, just don’t want the political ramifications to the president of the people suffering) then what do you propose?

    Repeal? Please think about the practicality of that for more than five knee-jerking minutes. The Ryan plan is a starting point and remarkably open for revising through old-fashioned political argument. The points raised above are on the table for discussion already. If old-fashioned political debate is going to kill the Republican majority in Congress, then your answer to the political problem is what?

    More executive orders, I suppose?

    • Private insurance companies still exist. Take the handcuffs off them and they will offer what Americans want…not what the government thinks they should have.

      • My husband was in the business of selling health insurance and isn’t now. He was part of vast sales system that doesn’t exist anymore. He’s still got a couple of big accounts, but because he does other business for those companies (and cares), not because that aspect of his business is profitable.

        Take the handcuffs off, get rid of the exchanges and reduce the regulations and eventually insurance companies will be able to offer what the public wants. Getting there without hurting people or the remaining insurance companies is what the current congressional plan is all about.

    • We don’t need a “starting point.”

      This same GOP passed repeal laws how many times? Apparently they were “good” with that legislation. Obama vetoed them. What would have happened had he signed one of them? The world would have come to an end?


      When you realize these politicians are mostly all grifters, sucking on our collective nipples and gorging at the trough that is our collective wallet, you understand why they do what they do.

      Repeal the damn thing, put in free-market reforms, and step back.,

      • tps, I think your reasoning is flawed. The same GOP passed repeal laws they knew Obama would never sign. They could put in every right-wing wish list item they could imagine because they knew it would never have a shot to become law. Now there has to be compromise because real legislation that can pass both the House and Senate with squishy moderate RINOs will not get us everything we want. I think it’s good for the Trumpian right to pressure the congress and the president, but this comparison to what happened to the Democrats after Obomacare is frankly absurd. Those on the right who are vociferously opposed to the bill are almost acting like NeverTrumpers during the election. I’ve read everything I can on all this, and I’ve decided I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Trump, especially, but other congressional leaders as well. We’ll see in due course if I or Mr. Buskirk is right. I’m afraid there’s not much of a middle course.

  4. Once again, I’m surprised by the shock that the plan includes tax credits for insurance. Every single Republican health plan proposal since at least 2008 includes tax credits. Why are certain people on the right acting as if they’ve never heard of this before?

    • People who get their medical insurance through their employer are not taxed on that compensation. The tax credits for those buying insurance in the individual market are a way to extend the same benefit to them. Would people prefer that Republicans propose to start taxing everyone’s employer health contributions instead?

      • Can’t argue with this. Tax credits are an attempt to treat people fairly. But Tax credits come off looking like freebies for freeloaders.

      • I’ve always had Employer Health Insurance. It never cost much, and I never used it, so the Insurance companies loved me, I guess. Then Baraq Obama dictated that my health insurance MUST cover abortion, and a list of women’s health care issues. The deductible skyrocketed to $3k a year. I never spent $3k a year EVER in 40 years of adult life! Because I never used my health insurance before, I donated to the local health care center whose clientele is 95% female who could not afford ANYTHING for health care. I don’t contribute there anymore. I cancelled my employer health insurance because I will not pay to murder babies. So…I don’t have insurance now. It’s pretty much like it was before, but now I’m not paying for the folks who needed health care. Sorry.

  5. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the informative, well-reasoned article. You are so correct–Ryan is flirting with fire. Let us not forget he is also not successful as a politician, but speaks a great game. Ryan needs to go, as do about 50% of the GOP.

    Yeah, we are pissed out here in flyover.

  6. The AHCA includes expanded HSA’s, raising the contribution limits. The real key to making high deductible insurance plans affordable will be to remove the 10 essential benefits that are required under Obamacare– and while their removal aren’t in the bill, the HHS department can change the regulations requiring them. The bill isn’t perfect, but block granting Medicaid to the states is a positive step. Enhancing HSA’s is a positive step. It’s not all bad.

  7. If they don’t repeal it I will never again vote GOP – other than Trump who, as the GOP tells us, is “not really Republican.” GOPe is past its expiration date. Time for a 3rd party. Trump has the money & balls to create one before 2018. Just Do It.

    • Trump is a lifelong liberal Democrat. If he wanted to start a new party, he would’ve run as an independent. The fact he usurped the Stupid Party was because he had no intention of winning, was running just as a goof to bask in adulation and build his brand and to help his dear friend Hillary get elected with the added bonus of destroying the GOP. The scheme was to tarnish them with the alt-Reich in order to permanently drive Hispanic voters into the (D) column along with blacks and single women, but Hillary was so terrible that she couldn’t hold up her end of the deal.

      As counter-intuitive as it seems, the best possible result would’ve been for Hillary to win as planned and forge a new conservative party from the shatter remnants of the Stupid Party. Instead, with Trump’s victory, the GOP has been able to purge the conservatives they’ve loathed and embraced Trumpism which like its namesake is liberal Democrat in philosophy, albeit without the America-hating Leftism that the Dems have mutated into.

      The fact that you are only willing to vote for the Democrat as punishment for the GOPe illustrates how successful the Trump-Clinton alliance was and how doomed to collapse under crony corporatist socialism our dying nation is. But hey, you’re a True Believer in Cheeto Jesus. You feel this is a win.

      • If you think a Hillary win was the best possible result and would have been the catalyst for a Conservative Party you are part of the problem.

      • No, illiterate simpletons like you are the problem. Have a grown-up explain what the first part – “As counter-intuitive as it seems…” – means so you don’t beclown yourself with your knee-jerk ignorance.

        Hillary Clinton would’ve been deadly to the nation. Duh. Self-evident. BUT, the problem with the Democrat Trump’s usurpation of the GOP is that there is no room for conservative values – just look at TrumpCare which is ObamaCare 2.0 except now the Stupids will own it 1000% and the Dems will be able to skate away from their failure – and no one can make any moves towards providing a vehicle for conservatism in a new party until Trump leaves office, one way or another.

        Try and keep up with the complicated ideas for a moment: On Election Day, it looked like Trump was going to lose and take at least the Senate down with him. This was the plan of him and his dear friends the Clintons who conscripted him into their scheme to win the Iron Throne for Hillary. In the aftermath of this defeat, the GOP would’ve shattered and conservatives would’ve been able to form a new party dedicated to freedom and liberty while the GOPe followed the Whigs into historical footnotedom.

        But Trump won (thanks to Jill Stein’s spoiler candidacy) and now everything is frozen as the GOPe has officially cast aside all conservative pretenses (which they hated) in favor of Trumpism which is merely old-school Democrat as practiced before the Dems went full Marxist Leftist. It’s all populism and nationalism and liberalism because hey, whatever wins power for the powerful is fine. (Besides, conservatives want to cut back on the power and perks of being a ruler and what fun is that?)

        Trumpism has infected the Stupid Party with its liberalism and has turned them into or exposed them as complete hypocrites. Obama’s luxury vacations, golfing and Porkulus spending were BAD, but now that Trump is flying to Mar-A-Lago to schmooze with the people who now pay double for access – whoops, that should be “club membership” (wink, wink – it’s not the Lincoln Bedroom, right?) – and proposing a trillion dollars in shovel-ready jobs spending, they’re all for it.

        So, no, Hillary winning wouldn’t NOT have been good for the country, but Trump’s winning is also bad because it has corrupted the GOPe into a de facto Democrat party – not even Dem Lite, but actual Dem (just minus the flag-burning) – and anyone who feels that Trump will or would even want to form a third party (as @AlexScipio:disqus foolishly does) needs to get a freaking clue. Trump ran to have some fun, get Hillary elected and destroy the GOP. So #2 didn’t happen as planned. Same difference. The GOPe is ruined, no third party will arise, and conservatives will have to either go along with this neo-Democrat GOP or stay home in the future.

      • Put down the crack pipe and stop insulting people and maybe someone would read through your piles of dreck.

      • The fact that you have no rebuttal to my facts and are reduced to whining that I didn’t treat your dumb snowflake arse with unmerited respect proves my point. Liberals like you are worthless and live in a delusional fantasy world. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. Own it!

      • Boo hoo for your feels, but it doesn’t change the fact you’re a liberal who can’t dispute the truths I speak. Go cry.

  8. This article is silly. The GOP members in Congress are not a monolithic whole. While supporting a full repeal (with no Obama-care lite type replacement) is strongly supported by the constituents in conservative districts and states, it is strongly opposed by GOP voters (Republicans and independents) in more moderate states.

    The problem with Ryancare is that it attempts to have a “one-sized fits all” approach to government intervention in the healthcare market. But we don’t have one-size fits all.

    So the GOP needs to move to a plan that allows states to have four or five different options to choose from, from full Obamacare – with all of its taxes and mandates, to full-repeal plus more HSAs plus some free market reforms, with some intermediate options (one along the lines of Ryancare) in between. While States could do this on their own with full repeal – the problem is the politics of it all (and how easily Democrats use fear of getting sick, bankruptcy, etc. as a weapon against the GOP).

  9. Great analysis and spot on. Ryan seems bent on handing power back to the Left. The big question in my mind is “why?” Do these establishment Republicans feel more protected by a big government (even under Democrats) or are they merely incompetent and out of touch with all but their donor base (clearly, big insurance and big pharma in this case)?

    Rand Paul is right on this topic, as is Tom Cotten. Repeal it, or allow what the Founders intended – a big, loud, messy, brawling debate from a deliberative and thoughtful set of representatives of the people.

    (PS: Big fan on 960 the Patriot, Chris – keep up the good fight)

  10. I think Ryan’s in a tight spot. A lot of Trump’s voters AREN’T Republican. Trump has promised to repeal AND replace the ACA with something better.

    All my Trump voting friends assured me that Trump was only removing the mandate penalty, not removing the ability of pre-existing conditions to be covered. (Personally, I think you need both to be solvent.)

    Also, if you want to mandate health coverage you have to mandate price controls too. Hospitals are making a killing on drugs and lab tests that are now covered by the ACA.

  11. Repeal, NOT Repeal and Replace. That’s what we voted for, that’s what you promised.
    Depart from that at your own peril.

    Remove Federal requirements re: what MUST be offered and insurance companies will do what insurance companies do … they’ll offer what consumers want and are willing to pay for. State and local government will try and horn-in but they are closer to the people and can be slapped down more easily than the Feds.

    History shows, over and over again, that Americans are a compassionate and giving people.
    Charities will spring up to prevent the poor from “dying in the streets”.
    People with pre-existing conditions will be included and assisted by those charities.

    I would expect that the only thing the government would be required to do is arrest and punish the scammers who would try and take advantage as happens to every human endeavor.

    Instituting an Obamacare-lite would be no better than leaving Obamacare in place. Get government out of the face of the people

  12. “Still, the healthcare bill offered by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) seems like a premeditated act of defiance against the expressed desires of his own base.”

    First, given Trump’s winning of the nomination and election, it is not at all clear who “the base” is anymore.

    Second, Ryan and the House GOP published their framework last summer. It is the only proposal that has been developed and received significant buy-in in the Congress. The critics and naysayers are several months too late, and any proposal from the greater muckety-mucks of the Senate is a waste of time..

  13. One problem is the Senate. The House could conceivably pass a straight repeal that dumps the whole mess back to “the States respectively, or to the people” (the Tenth Amendment). That’s not even certain, as not all the House Republicans are very conservative or from very-conservative-enough districts. But assuming it happened, there are only 52 Republicans in the Senate, and at least two (Collins from Maine, Murkowski from Alaska) are RINOs. Could (or would?) Majority Leader McConnell hold the rest in line, so Vice-President Pence could cast the deciding vote?

    Maybe, but remember: President Trump has promised to keep the no-exclusion-for-pre-existing conditions rule on the books, as well as the 26-year-olds-on-parents’-policy rule. The former is an underwriting killer; the latter maybe not so much, but both place severe restrictions on insurance-company freedom. Would Mr Trump be willing to renege on these promises? He’d have to for Repeal and Dump.

    My guess is that Paul Ryan, Tom Price, and whoever in the White House is actively involved with the healthcare legislation (Steve Banon? Kellyanne Conway?) have had these discussions and have agreed that the current ‘three-stage’ process is the best way proceed politically.

    I would certainly prefer ‘Repeal and Dump’; then beef up HSAs (to cover basic healthcare and catastrophic premiums); remove the employee tax exclusion (which would level the playing field without tax credits); and help states with a new program to replace Medicaid for ‘uninsurables’ (which I can’t describe here). But is all this politically possible? Probably not without the enthusiastic support of the President, which at this point seems to be focused on the anemic Ryan bill. More’s the pity.

    /Mr Lynn

  14. Agreed, but it seems to me that a large part of the problem is Trump himself. Tom Price just said it: There will NOT be a pure repeal bill. Trump promised everyone that no one would lose out. That complicates things enormously.

  15. This will be a “read my lips” moment for Trump. He will be a 1 term president. It makes me sad to think we had it all, but didn’t have the will to get it right…

  16. Chris, the problem for the Republicans is they have blamed EVERYTHING that is wrong with Health care and Health Insurance on Obamacare which is a flat out lie. Now they have to live with the consequences for their lying. I don’t think there is a way out for the Republicans on this unless they start seriously working to fix the real problems in our health care system. Unfortunately, that would mean working with Democrats to develop bipartisan solutions. I don’t see that happening. Therefore I expect the healthcare issue to be a millstone around the neck of the Republican party, just as it was for the Democrats these past six years.

  17. All Republicans know how to do is campaign. You couldn’t lead a country if your lives depended on it. Unfortunately, our lives DO

  18. Republicans want to lose control of the House and Senate. In the minority, they have a sweet gig. No responsibility…3 days a week highly paid job…Multi thousand dollar vacations described as CODELS. Republicans don’t want to govern. They want to suck on the Federal teat. Why do you think the Republicans were so outraged by Ted Cruz? They can’t lose. You want to punish them by voting out the outlier Repulicans, so they are out as a Majority? McConnell and Ryan win. BUT…they’re fighting for you, dontcha know.

  19. It won’t do anything of the kind. Voters are not stupid. They are undoing Obamacare so they can undo anything they have to do to get rid of it. The point is that it is happening. The argument at present is like two men arguing about the best way to carve the Thanksgiving turkey. The voters are satisfied that Trump is doing his best to keep his promises and we will keep an eye on who is helping him and who is standing in the way.

    The midterms aren’t that far away. We will simply replace those who are blocking our will. We did it when we got the House, we did it when we got the Senate, and we did it when we got the White House. Get out of the way of the Trump Train boys or they will spend weeks finding the dismembered parts of your political bodies strewn across the tracks.

    One thing is for sure, no matter waht happens there is NO chance of the government ever being able to ORDER us to buy a government approved product with money we have earned and already paid taxes. The creeping totalitarianism is over.

  20. I am a Trump supporter, and have been since he announced he was running and would build a wall, but I am not with him on this one. In fact, I am amazed that he would speak of campaigning against Republicans who keep their word to their voters. I am surprised he would join Ryan on this bill, but I am totally amazed that he would threaten to work against the re-election of Republicans who vote their conscience and keep their promise to their voters. This is not negotiation. This is thuggery. If the bill fails a lot of us will blame both Ryan and Trump, but not the Republicans who had the courage to not fail their voters. If it passes a lot of us will blame Ryan and Trump. Trump loses both ways. He should not have joined Ryan, but Ryan did not make him threaten those Republicans who keep their campaign promises. That he did all by himself. Disappointing.