The Boobytrapped Presidency

The Democrats are doing all they can to spike Donald Trump’s presidency before it gets off the ground. His path is littered with snares and pitfalls. Among other things, the Obama administration is taking a series of executive actions that the Democrats say Trump can’t undo. I am not sure how that works; as a general rule, one would think that anything a president can order, the next president can countermand. (Agency actions under the Administrative Procedure Act are admittedly a more complicated issue.) If a departing president really can hamstring his successor, President Trump will have to remember to do the same on his way out the door, if it looks like his successor could be a Democrat.

The biggest turkey awaiting President Trump is, of course, Obamacare. The Republicans want to repeal it, but some of its provisions will have to be replaced with something better, given that millions of insurance policies have been issued, and many other actions have been taken, in reliance on its provisions. Some kind of transition will presumably be necessary.

The problem is that enacting any sort of replacement will need to get past a Senate filibuster by the Democrats. As I understand it, all parties agree that the GOP can’t simply use the reconciliation process to repeal the ACA and enact whatever replacement is deemed necessary, the same way the Democrats passed Obamacare in the first place. This is beyond my pay grade: one hopes that Republican parliamentarians can outsmart their Democratic counterparts and achieve the results that their majorities justify, but this rarely seems to happen.

Obamacare is an unpopular program that has become progressively more unpopular as its effects–more expensive health insurance and fewer choices–have become apparent. Yet the GOP, many of whose Representatives and Senators were elected largely in order to get rid of the ACA, is in the position of having to cobble something workable out of the ruins of Obamacare. And if they fail, most observers think the blame will fall on the Congressional Republicans, not a single one of whom was foolish enough to vote for the program.

Michael Ramirez sums up the situation well: Humpty Dumpty has crumbled, and the task of repairing the Democrats’ failure falls to Republicans:

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It is quite possible that the Democrats have screwed up the health care system so badly that the Republicans won’t be able to repair it. It is also quite possible that if they try, the Republicans will wind up taking much of the blame from voters. But who ever said that politics is fair?

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