Since the day it was passed back in 2010, the Affordable Healthcare Act, aka Obamacare, was marked for repeal by Congressional Republicans. In fact, the large Republican majority in the House of Representatives that was swept into office during the 2010 election had a strong mandate to repeal Obamacare.
But as long as President Barack Obama remained in office, he would veto any legislation to repeal the law. This did not stop House Republicans from voting over fifty times to partially or fully repeal Obamacare. But it wasn’t until 2016 that the Senate, which finally had a Republican majority, voted to repeal Obamacare, and gave the President a chance to veto the bill.
The prospects of repealing the Affordable Care Act improved immeasurably last November when Donald Trump was elected president, along with Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
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Congressional Republicans knew that if they fully repealed Obamacare, tens of millions of Americans would lose their healthcare coverage, and there would be an extremely high political price to be paid. So why not repeal Obamacare immediately, but have that repeal go into effect only when Congress had worked out a replacement plan?
On January 6th of this year, Senator Rand Paul (Republican, KY) apparently convinced President Elect Donald Trump that Obamacare should be replaced on the same day that it’s repealed.
On January 15, 2017, just a week before he would take office, Donald Trump magnanimously declared, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody.” To do that, Congress would need to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously.
Mr. Trump envisioned a healthcare plan under which we would all be better off. Who could argue with that?
And who would formulate this wonderful plan? The president generously delegated this job to Congressional Republicans. After all, who knew more about repealing Obamacare than these folks?
After House Republicans finally managed to pass a bill, which the president later labeled as “mean,” Senate Republicans tried to pass their own version of repealing and replacing Obamacare. But despite the strenuous efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican, KY), it became increasingly apparent that he could not succeed.
Now President Trump has done a 180-degree turn. Finally conceding that the Republican majorities in the House and Senate could not manage to simultaneously repeal and replace Obamacare, on June 30th he tweeted, “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date.”
What have President Trump and Congressional Republicans learned about Obamacare during the last six months?
First, that most Americans don’t want it to be repealed. And second, that Congress is virtually incapable of replacing Obamacare.
And so, the man who overcame tremendous odds to save Obamacare is President Trump. But he is much too modest to claim credit for this monumental feat.
Steve Slavin has a PhD in economics from NYU, and has written sixteen math and economics books, including a widely used introductory economics textbook now in its eleventh edition (McGraw Hill) and The Great American Economy (Prometheus Books) due out in August 2017.