WASHINGTON, March 26, 2017 — The Republican-controlled Congress handed President Trump a defeat on the health care replacement bill. He will need support from Democrats to finally fix the health care mess, support that he should have nailed down in the first place. Top negotiators who know the true art of the deal should understand how to do this.
Trump just learned that there is a difference in opinion on just how conservative the Republican Party should be. The Freedom Caucus believes very strongly that more strictly followed conservative principles are what the voters who they represent want.
These principles include a strong focus on individual responsibility.
The Freedom Caucus opposes income transfer programs, which take from those who earn more and give to those who earn less. They only support programs that provide minimal income for those truly in need due to old age, physical and mental disabilities.
Entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will consume about half of the federal government’s $4 trillion budget this year. That’s $2 trillion in income transfer. Given that burden, the Freedom Caucus wants a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act, to be replaced with a program involving zero government subsidies to anyone.
Moderate Republicans believe in the same basic principles but tend to be more generous with public funds. While they believe that everyone who is able should care for themselves, they also realize that things are just not that simple, hence there must be more generosity shown toward those who have very little.
That’s the basis of the difference of opinion in the Republican Party.
The Democrats believe more in social justice; when they see injustice, they consider it the responsibility of the federal government to correct it.
The Democrats think that every American citizen (and sometimes non-citizens) has basic rights that extend well beyond those protected by the Constitution, and these include some goods and services, regardless of your ability to pay for them. Just how far this social responsibility goes is the basis for divisions within the Democratic Party.
The Bernie Sanders faction believes that economic inequality itself is unjust; no one should have a great deal when others have only very little. Sanders’ followers want massive income transfer programs so that every American who can’t afford to pay can have free higher education, free healthcare and free access to enough income to maintain a lifestyle that reflects American values.
More moderate Democrats favor curing social injustices, but they believe that individuals should share more of the responsibility. Those who really can take care of themselves should have the opportunity to do so.
For a health care bill to pass Congress, Trump will need the support of the moderate Democrats. He should have included them in the process from the very beginning. It would have been difficult, since the Democratic leadership advised its caucus to resist everything he wants to do. At some point that will change.
Now Trump says that he will turn his attention to fiscal policy. The public debt ceiling is about to be reached, and a budget for the next fiscal year must be finalized. Tax reform must take place quickly to stimulate the stagnant economy. Trump says he’ll make tax reform his top priority.
Trump is right: The current healthcare law is disastrous for many Americans and will collapse before the end of the year. As problems with the law worsen, Americans will demand that Congress finally fix the problem. At that point, or sooner, Trump should meet with Democratic leaders like Chuck Shumer and Nancy Pelosi, to find out how far he can move toward basic conservative principles while keeping enough of the current law so that the majority of Dems can support it.
This is really the way government should work.
The Freedom Caucus will still not support Trump’s bill, but the loss of their votes can be more than offset by an increase in the votes from Democrats. The goal would be to get enough Democratic support so that at least 60 senators will approve the new bill, as well as a simple majority in the House.
Trump convinced many Americans to support him because he could use his negotiating skills to bring the sides together and close the great divide that separates the political parties and the American people.
So, come on Mr. President, show us what you have.