Robert Tracinski writes at the Federalist website that the U.S. House Freedom Caucus offered a silver lining during the dark clouds of debate over the now-scuttled American Health Care Act.

Their failure to pass the Obamacare “repeal and replace” bill was a disaster for House Republicans. The only way the disaster could have been worse is if they had passed it.

This was a case of “you had one job” if ever there was one. Republicans have spent the past seven years obstructing Obamacare, complaining about it, campaigning against it, promising to repeal it, and repeatedly putting forward repeal votes. The American people rewarded them with two smashing midterm congressional victories that gave them control of both the House and the Senate. Now, with a Republican in the White House who would presumably sign whatever they put in front of him, there was no excuse for failing to deliver on that one big promise. …

… Yes, that’s a good thing, because we know how a bill like this would have worked in the past. The Republican leadership would decide they need to nominally “repeal” Obamacare to appease the base, while actually keeping major parts of it to avoid being called mean and horrible (which they will be called anyway). So they cobble together an awful, botched compromise, then force it down everybody’s throat, and nobody is able to stand up and stop it.

They certainly tried to do it this time. President Trump just wanted a bill and didn’t care what was in it, responding to objections from the Freedom Caucus by telling them to “Forget about the little sh–,” which is a really great way of confirming to someone that you don’t care about the things he cares about. But they were expected to swallow what was served to them, with Steve Bannon thundering, “This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.”

Ah, but they did have a choice. The Federalist’s own Ben Domenech fills in the missing link, pointing out that this is the product of “a post-earmark legislative process.” Until he mentioned it, I had almost forgotten that part of the story. It’s easy to overlook, because it’s a matter of what is not there, the proverbial dog that didn’t bark.

What we have not seen is the old-fashioned arm-twisting that was routine under the system of congressional earmarks for spending. What we haven’t seen is a progression of lawmakers being either enticed with the promise of lavish new funds for projects in their districts, or threatened with the withdrawal of that spending.