Elections Don’t Have Consequences
Senator Mitch McConnell speaks at CPAC on Friday, March 15, 2013. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
At CPAC 2013, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) stated definitively, “ObamaCare should be repealed root and branch.” Four years later, McConnell is now the Majority Leader, and Donald Trump is the President of the United States. We are seven months into this Congress, and seven months into Trump’s Presidency. After several failed attempts in both houses of Congress to alter Obama’s signature bill slightly, ObamaCare still stands, root, branch, and even leaf.
At a recent town hall, Senator McConnell complained about President Trump’s excessive expectations in regards to legislative progress. I am not sure how high Trump’s expectations truly are, but it is clear that McConnell thinks Congress needs more time to fix the health-insurance/healthcare problem.
Why, though? Why do McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) need more time? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) was passed in December of 2009, and ever since, the GOP has pledged to repeal the law and fix the health system. For six years, Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives. For two years, they have controlled the Senate. Now that the GOP has control of the White House, there should be no excuses, and there should be no delay. The truth is that Republicans in Congress have had plenty of time to think about the healthcare issue, and yet they seem to have no real solution.
During the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives on the promise to repeal ObamaCare. When Mitt Romney ran for President, he ran on “repeal and replace,” as have those who have run since then. Certainly, there were problems in the health system before the Affordable Care Act, so a replacement should help fix these problems, after a repeal bill removes the failures of the ACA.
So why have Congressional Republicans slacked on discussing these changes so they could swiftly pass a bill once they took control? Why has there been such wide disagreement on healthcare legislation within the GOP? The answer is really quite simple: the Republican Party knows how to win elections, but they are terrible at governing.
The GOP is extremely good at campaigning on the failures of Democrats, but terrible at articulating their own conservative principles. They are even worse at enacting these principles into policies once elected.
For some Republicans, it could be the lack of conservative principles from the start, such as those who only vote conservatively when it is extremely expedient. I would classify John McCain (R-Arizona), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in this category. All three of these Senators voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2009, but refused to repeal even the slightest portion of it when it mattered.
For other Republicans, they have conservative principles, but are more than willing to compromise those principles if it is the easy thing to do. They can clearly communicate conservatism on the campaign trail, but will ignore that conservatism if a vote might affect them negatively. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would easily fit into this category.
Another group of Republicans includes those who are low-key conservatives. These individuals have consistently conservative voting records, but are not normally publicly outspoken about the issues within the party and its leadership. They are truly conservatives, but are not gutsy enough to publicly pressure their fellow Republicans into keeping their promises. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) would be one member of this group.
The final group of Republicans is the smallest group—these are the members of Congress who are truly outspoken about conservatism, during a campaign or not. We need more Republicans in this category—Republicans like Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).
So why haven’t Republicans developed a clear and simple plan to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with true free-market solutions? The answer to that question is clear and simple: far too many Republicans are conservatives only during election season, and others are not willing to pressure their colleagues to do what is right.
You’ve heard it said that elections have consequences. This is true, at least when Democrats win. Democrats keep their promises to expand government, promote moral relativism, and take control of the entire health insurance business. On the other hand, Republicans refuse again and again to solve problems with the conservative principles on which they campaigned. They are content to win elections on Democrat failures, and then lose when they refuse to fix those failures. And they will deserve to lose.