Forget college basketball, the real March Madness is the Republican fight over the American Health Care Act.
The immensely important political contest that will determine the fate of the GOP pits the Republican establishment, led by House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-WI), versus the Freedom Caucus, headed by Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC).
It’s a battle over the soul of the Republican Party — where the political stakes couldn’t be higher.
With momentum and the full Trump administration on Ryan’s side, it’s up to the Freedom Caucus to stand together and vote to kill the bill and rescue the Republican brand from disaster.
While the Ryan health care plan takes steps to improve the current system, it falls far short of the GOP promises to repeal Obamacare that was a driving force that gave the Republicans control of Congress and the White House.
Instead of fully repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a healthcare plan molded in conservative principles, Ryan’s plan is a chimera — part Obamacare and part Ryancare.
The individual and employer mandates go, but are replaced with an insurance mandate. Some taxes are eliminated over time but the Cadillac Tax kicks in come 2025 and stays — permanently. Medicaid expansion continues until 2020, giving states an incentive to increase enrollment before the window closes.
You get the idea.
Tinker here and there but Ryan’s plan is not the repeal Obamacare platform and free market solutions to make insurance premiums affordable that Republicans wrapped their campaigns around.
The Republican establishment game plan is to pass Ryancare first and then tackle other parts of Obamacare later through modifications in regulations and passing new legislation.
Ryan’s three-step plan is cumbersome and complicated, clearly violating the “keep it simple, stupid” principle for designing complex systems.
Waiting on the sideline is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is drooling over the possibility to shift the burden of a failed health care plan to Republicans.
Schumer will do everything possible to make sure new legislation that would drive premium prices down, such as increasing competition in the insurance market by selling plans across state lines, never sees the light of day.
Americans will judge the success or failure of the Republican effort on the cost of insurance and, based on that metric, Ryan’s plan fails big league.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, average insurance premiums will initially soar 15 percent to 20 percent from the Obamacare baseline over the next two years before falling after 2019.
Designing a plan that initially increases premium costs and also increases the uninsured provides Democrats with a powerful campaign theme that will be amplified by their media allies.
Ryan is pushing his health care bill through the House as fast as possible. It’s already gone through several House Committees and the bill is set for a full House vote on Thursday.
The Freedom Caucus — a group of about 40 conservative House Republicans — have the votes to block the Ryancare train wreck.
The Freedom Caucus brand is built on rock solid conservative principles of limited government and public policy-based free-market solutions.
If they take a principled stand and vote against Ryan’s plan, Freedom Caucus members will deal a crushing blow to the establishment wing of the Republican Party and keep their promise to conservative voters that put them in office.
It will also put them in a position to advance a full repeal bill and build a new plan based on free-market principles that can deliver affordable healthcare.
If, however, the Freedom Caucus caves to establishment pressure they will lose all credibility and transform their brand from insurgent conservative members of Congress to political swamp creatures of the D.C. establishment.
Freedom Caucus members can’t possibly explain why they voted to repeal Obamacare last year but failed to do so in 2017, especially with a Republican president.
The consequences to future elections will be far reaching. Since the Freedom Caucus will decide the fate of the bill the conservative members ironically will own a health care system that violates their core principles.
Moreover, the Freedom Caucus will make fools of the conservative voters and advocacy groups that worked hard to put them in office.
For years, groups such as FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, and The Club for Growth, among others, sold conservative voters that the path to repealing Obamacare was by electing principled conservatives.
If Ryancare becomes law, the promise made by these groups will be broken, shattering the morale of conservative activists.
For the sake of the conservative movement and the Republican brand, Meadows must rally his Freedom Caucus members and score an upset victory for liberty.
Dr. Tom Borelli is a contributor to Conservative Review. As a columnist he has written for Townhall.com, The Washington Times, Newsmax magazine, and also hosts radio programs on SiriusXM Patriot with his wife Deneen Borelli. Dr. Borelli has appeared on numerous television programs on Newsmax TV, Fox News, Fox Business and TheBlaze. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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