House Leadership Pulls Health Care Bill

It became apparent this afternoon that the health care bill promoted by Republican leadership in the House did not have enough votes to pass, and the bill was pulled by Speaker Paul Ryan, despite President Trump’s earlier insistence that a vote be held. Based on the Washington Post’s account, it appears that Trump acquiesced in the decision. “‘We just pulled it,’ he said.”

Inevitably, commentators will play the perceptions game:

“So much about political power is about perception. And if the perception is that you can’t get your first big initiative done, then that hurts the perceptions down the road about your ability to get other big things done,” [Rep. Bradley] Byrne said in an interview before the decision.

I don’t particularly buy that. Republicans control both houses of Congress, and the fact that they couldn’t agree on what to do about Obamacare doesn’t materially diminish their ability to agree on, for example, taxes or a military buildup. With hindsight, it is easy to say that they should have started with tax cuts and saved the more difficult Obamacare legislation for later. But I see no reason why today’s failure will derail the rest of the Trump administration’s, or the congressional leadership’s, agendas.

I don’t know whether the failure of Ryan’s American Health Care Act is a good thing or a bad thing. One school of thought holds that Republicans are best served by letting Obamacare spiral downward until it collapses entirely–a point that may not be far in the future. Perhaps that is what will happen. Now, in any event, it will be on to other issues.

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