It’s hard to think of a bill that’s had a worse rollout than the American Health Care Act, which was hated by pretty much everyone from its inception. It was a big, unwieldy play doh ball of terrible ideas about health care that would make pretty much everyone’s lives worse, but especially the lives of the old and the poor. That it would make people’s lives worse without making health care any better or more affordable was almost a weird kind of accomplishment. But for these reasons and for others—conservatives wanted it to be even worse—the bill was widely loathed, a giant tax cut disguised as a health care bill that would turn back the clock a decade or more.
The AHCA has now flatlined. The House delayed its vote on the bill on Thursday, a tacit acknowledgment that after three torturous weeks of incompetent negotiating, they did not have the votes to repeal the hated Obamacare in a chamber that they control. The bill appears to have fallen apart after the thirsty right-wing members of the Freedom Caucus went to the White House to demand even more concessions and were rebuffed. But even if the Freedom Caucus had gotten what they wanted, the bill still may not have passed the House. There were signs that moderates would have balked, unwilling to sign their names to something that would likely die in the Senate anyway for being insanely draconian.
Of course, the AHCA is not quite dead yet. The House will take it up again either on Friday or early next week, and probably with significant changes that will make the bill even more regressive. At the very least, it looks like the Republicans will be stuck on health care for much longer than Paul Ryan initially expected.
More than anything else, this is an indictment of Donald Trump’s leadership and his presidency. This was his first big test and he failed it miserably. He was unable to whip the votes, showing no command over the issue, the bill, or the legislative process. His own deep unpopularity, combined with multiple bombshells involving his campaign’s involvement with Russia, certainly didn’t help things. But no one hurts himself more than Donald Trump, who, far from being the greatest negotiator ever, clearly has no idea what he’s doing.
When he emerged to make his first public comment on the no-vote, he was wearing an I <3 Trucks pin. Like a big boy.