The Obamacare replacement blame game

From the Washington Post:

President Trump cast blame Sunday for the collapse of his effort to overhaul the health-care system on conservative interest groups and far-right Republican lawmakers, shifting culpability to his own party after initially faulting Democratic intransigence.

His attack — starting with a tweet that singled out the House Freedom Caucus as well as the influential Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America — marked a new turn in the increasingly troubled relationship between the White House and a divided GOP still adjusting to its unorthodox standard-bearer.

Blaming Democratic intransigence was ridiculous. The Democrats were always going to be intransigent. Blaming them is like blaming a dog for barking.

Blaming the Freedom Caucus isn’t ridiculous. Unlike with the Dems, the possibility existed, at least in theory, that its members might knuckle under and support Speaker Ryan’s bill.

However, if the bill was a bad one, the Freedom Caucus should be commended, not blamed, for sinking it. If the bill was a bad one, as I believe it was, blame should rest primarily on Speaker Ryan for drafting it and for doing so without input from the factions he needed to get it through the House.

Ryan should have heeded the advice of Sen. Tom Cotton and taken the time to get Obamacare replacement right.

What about President Trump? How much, if any, blame should attach to him?

If Trump is to be blamed, it’s for deferring to Ryan. However, doing so must have seemed reasonable.

Ryan’s reputation is as a policy wonk, with health insurance reform thought to be one of his areas of expertise. In addition, although Ryan is fairly new to his current position, Trump could reasonably believe the Speaker’s assessment of what his caucus would, with some arm-twisting, agree to.

It turns out that Trump’s confidence in Ryan was misplaced. The Speaker left him to close a deal that could not, and should not, have been closed — even by Trump.

This should be the president’s takeaway from last week’s defeat.

Some evidence suggests that it is. On Saturday, Trump encouraged his Twitter followers to watch Jeanine Pirro, the Fox News host, that night. On her program, Pirro said Ryan should resign as Speaker for presiding over a failed effort that allowed “our president in his first 100 days to come out of the box like that.”

Perhaps Trump’s subsequent anti-Freedom Caucus tweets were an effort to walk back any implied criticism of Paul Ryan. More likely, Trump blames everyone — Democrats, Freedom Caucus members, and Paul Ryan.

He needs to move beyond the blame game and get a better handle on health insurance policy before the next rounds in the Obamacare replacement process, so that he doesn’t need to rely so heavily on Paul Ryan.

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