- - Thursday, March 23, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The GOP infighting over health care is putting President Trump’s negotiating skills to the ultimate test.

The media coverage makes it seem like this is a do-or-die moment for the Republican Party and the Trump presidency if lawmakers fail to pass the American Health Care Act. It is supposedly the final exam to see if the Republicans can govern and Mr. Trump and Speaker Paul D. Ryan can work together.

Even if House leaders can get the bill over the finish line Friday, the legislation also appears to face significant hurdles in the Senate, where conservatives like Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee oppose the overhaul in its current form.

The negotiations grind on, but the process also has demonstrated the power of the conservative caucus in influencing power and having the president’s ear. Conservatives would like to see the removal of certain essential health benefits that are currently required by health insurance packages and shorten the timetable on funding Medicaid expansion.

Whether Mr. Trump is able to deliver a win is going to be critical to his legislative agenda moving forward. In his pep rally with the House GOP conference, he singled out Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Mr. Trump’s pitch: Republicans as a whole would lose in 2018 if they fail to pass a bill. Mr. Meadows and the Freedom Caucus have since then been working continually with the White House and House leadership to shape the legislation, but obviously remained just short of the finish line.

The political reality is that time is limited and the Republicans have to deliver a real solution on Obamacare replacement, and the GOP needs to get it right the first time. And while Speaker Ryan and Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas Price talk about the three phases of replacing Obamacare, but conservatives warn that later pieces of the reform, including replacement legislation that will need 60 votes to pass the Senate, may never come to pass.

We know Obamacare has failed, with skyrocketing premiums that have crushed middle-class Americans while offering limited health care options. Health insurance companies have fled many markets. It’s time for Republicans on Capitol Hill to compromise and find consensus. The governing party needs to act and produce results.

Some of the GOP’s wounds, admittedly, have been self-inflicted.

In addition to the botched process in crafting the bill, Ryancare has not been properly “sold” to the American people. The CBO’s number-crunching projected that 24 million Americans would lose their health care coverage over the next decade, a finding that has hurt the ability of Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan to promote the legislation.

Voters are not sure what to make of this bill. They feel uncertain and don’t like change, especially in their health care. Under Obamacare, they were promised that they would keep their doctors and their plans, but that turned out to be false.

Now, once again, they are being asked to trust in the Republicans to fix the problem. If polling is any indication, it will be an uphill battle for Republicans to sell the plan beyond the halls of Congress. According to the most recent Quinnipiac poll, only 17 percent of voters approve of the Republican plan to repeal and replace. If the president and the House leadership had difficulty in selling the plan to their own caucus, how can they succeed in selling it to the country?

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.

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