by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Where do things stand among Republicans in Washington regarding the repeal and replacement of Obamacare? Every day seems to bring fresh twists in the story, and the basic thread can be hard to follow. Is this the beginning of an arduous but ultimately fruitful legislative process? Is it the painful end of an illusion? Will it yield in a quagmire or a vindication for the party that has made the fight against Obamacare its foremost mission for more than half a decade?
One lesson I’ve learned from working on public policy in and out of government is that in a complex legislative debate, success and failure often feel exactly the same while they are happening. They both feel pretty much like pandemonium. During the lengthy period when some basic questions of strategy and substance are still open, everything seems up for grabs and the entire edifice always looks on the edge of collapsing. So it is not easy to judge the prospects for success by orderliness or discipline along the way. A better yardstick is whether there is a plausible strategy being championed by a critical mass of people on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.
By that measure, the effort to replace Obamacare is in some trouble. On its face, the legislative strategy lawmakers are now pursuing is not a good fit for the substantive policy objectives it is expected to achieve, and Republicans have yet to come to terms with the mismatch. But we are very early in the process, there is a growing awareness at all levels of the inadequacies of the approach, the incoming administration has yet to truly have its say, and ample opportunity remains for Republicans in Congress to correct their course as they go. That course will inevitably change several times before the story ends.