Ground Game

With Obamacare replacement proposal, Republicans feel history repeating

House Speaker Paul Ryan.
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
House Speaker Paul Ryan.

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It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans mocked Democrats about the bumbling way they drafted the Affordable Care Act and the way in which they eventually passed the law.

There was the line from Democrat Nancy Pelosi that they would have to see what the bill was after they passed it. There were accusations that the bill was rammed through Congress. There were even stories about divisions within the Democratic majority about whether to accept a bill without a public option.

But as House Republicans released their framework for replacing the ACA, the same story lines appear to be repeating themselves -- except with Republicans in the hot seat.


Since some leading Republicans don’t even want the proposed bill to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, there is no way to know how much the bill will cost or how many people might lose or gain coverage until after the bill is passed. Republicans also don’t want a drawn-out debate on the topic. In fact, they want the House to pass a bill repealing and replacing the ACA basically within a month. (The Senate is a different matter.) And the bill’s fate might by sunk by Republican criticism from the political right and left.

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Some 24 hours after the House released their plan, it appears dead on arrival. Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate and can only lose two members of their caucus on any particular bill. Already four members have written a letter saying they oppose the House bill because it doesn’t do enough to protect Medicaid expansion funding in their home states. Four other senators, like Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, said the plan is “Obamacare-lite” and isn’t conservative enough.

What is important to note is that the bill appears to be the first time that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump’s White House have worked together on a specific plan.

But the political reality remains, as Trump said last week about the health care proposal: “Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” he added. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

The complicated nature might also be news to many Republicans who now must figure out how they are going to deliver on the promise they have made for several elections now to repeal and replace the ACA.


Keep in mind that two-thirds of House Republicans and one-half of Senate Republicans weren’t in their current positions when the ACA passed in 2010, according to Amy Walter at the Cook Political Report History might be repeating itself, but for them, the battle scars will all be new.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics:http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp