Killing Obamacare: Trump Goes It Alone 

If you are a Trump voter, why trust me? Let's go to President Trump's toadies in Congress and see what they have to say about his Justice Department's call last week to push the federal courts to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Representative Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), one of Trump's strong backers, bluntly told The Washington Post that the president's order to the Justice Department is "not the smartest move." He explained that doing away with the current law without having a replacement ready to go "leaves millions of Americans in harm's way and they didn't do anything."

And here's a Republican voice with enough distance from Trump to get the joke: "We couldn't repeal and replace it with a Republican House," Senator Lamar Alexander said, also to the Post, while laughing at the memory. He also pointed out the obvious: The House is now under the control of a Democratic majority.

Juan Williams
  • Juan Williams

Now let's go to Trump's biggest enablers. Oh, they're not talking. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want no part of this political suicide.

Here's a tweet from Josh Holmes, McConnell's former top aide. "Dear GOP," Holmes wrote, "When Democrats are setting themselves ablaze by advocating the destruction of American health care, try to resist the temptation of asking them to pass the kerosene."

What about the cabinet? Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General William Barr both told the White House not to do it, according to several reports.

And here is more dissent, this time from the conservatives at The Wall Street Journal. Destroying Obamacare without a replacement plan means angering millions of Americans who "now rely on the law for health insurance," the paper editorialized. As for the long-promised, fantastic replacement plan, the Journal wrote: "If there's some new emerging GOP consensus, we haven't heard about it."

Okay, so even the people who have been making excuses for Trump are not looking the other way on this one. Why? The answer is that angering voters by destroying the ACA would be a political catastrophe.

Health care stands out as the top reason the GOP lost 41 seats and control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections. According to the 2018 exit polls, 41 percent of voters identified health care as the most important issue to them. Fifty-seven percent of voters said Democrats are the better of the two parties at protecting people with pre-existing conditions. A poll taken by the Kaiser Family Foundation in mid-March found that 50 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of Obamacare. Every one of the Democrats running for president are celebrating the ACA's protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Several are promoting the idea of "Medicare for all" and "single-payer." They know voters elected a class of freshman House Democrats who campaigned on these ideas.

AdWeek's Jason Lynch wrote after the midterms that health-care-themed advertising "accounted for 49 percent of all Democrat ads overall and 59 percent of all Democratic ads for House races." Meanwhile, 367,000 Republican advertisements — only one-third of the Democratic total — mentioned health care, according to the Kantar analysis. The Republicans preferred to focus on tax reform, immigration, and low unemployment. That proved to be a loser for the party.

But the president is looking to stir his hardcore base for the 2020 campaign. Attacking Obamacare is a potential sop to the Ann Coulter faction of his base who correctly point out he has not lived up to his promise to build the wall — and have Mexico pay.

Will it work? Here is James Capretta, a health-care expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, on CNN last week: "The president, I don't think, really has any idea what he's really saying there. It's more of a promotional and marketing impulse on his part. It leaves Republicans open to ... ridicule by the Democrats that they don't have a plan."

But Trump is not convinced: "We are going to have great health care. The Republican Party will be the party of great health care. You watch," the president told Sean Hannity last week.

If this legal takedown works, Trump will take all the credit. But Republicans in Congress know they will take the blame for leaving millions without health insurance. That's why Trump's tribe in Congress is not lining up on this one.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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