The Republicans’ health care gambit failed, at least for now, because the party couldn’t overcome its partisan divisions. The GOP majority in the House and Senate is large enough to pass the legislation, but as is now obvious, there aren’t enough Republican members prepared to back their party’s regressive and unpopular bill.
And yet, consider this exchange from yesterday’s White House press briefing, where Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted intra-party divisions aren’t the real problem.
Q: First, who is responsible, primarily responsible for what appears to be the failure of this healthcare legislation?
SANDERS: I would say Democrats.
Yes, of course. Democrats have effectively no role in the federal policymaking process – in the case of this health care bill, they couldn’t even filibuster – which is controlled by a Republican House, Republican Senate, and Republican White House. And yet, Trump World see Democrats as the reason for Trumpcare’s apparent demise.
In a way, it’s almost a compliment: the White House apparently sees Democrats as enormously powerful, despite being in the minority.
Asked for an explanation, Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued, among other things, that congressional Dems are “responsible for being unwilling to work with Republicans in any capacity.”
This is an increasingly common GOP talking point. It’s not altogether coherent – several Republicans balked at their own party’s legislation because Democrats wouldn’t negotiate? – but it appears to make the White House and GOP leaders feel better.
That does not, however, make it true. As we discussed several weeks ago, Democrats practically begged to work with Republicans on health care. They put their appeals in writing for months. GOP leaders ignored every appeal.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell considered a bipartisanship approach, in a rather literal sense, the worst-case scenario. In March, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) characterized bipartisanship as the one course of action he simply did not want to even consider.
But it’s against this backdrop that GOP officials continue to whine that Democrats weren’t willing partners. It’s like complaining that someone didn’t attend your party after you failed to invite him – and then locked the door when he showed up.