- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Congressional Republican leadership has stepped in it again — big time.

In lifting the curtain on its proposed replacement for Obamacare, the GOP leadership revealed a plan, eight years in the making, that replaces Obamacare entitlements with GOP entitlements. Call it “Abominable Care” if you’re a die-hard free marketer.

If that description fits you, you’ll love a staff report by 170-member House Republican Study Committee. It dropped the conservative equivalent of the “f-bomb” on the bill’s refundable tax credits, calling them “a Republican welfare entitlement.”

Not to be outdone, Heritage Action for America’s Michael Needham hissed that the GOP proposal “not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of Obamacare but expands upon them.”

Such conservative stalwarts as FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth took their turn to blast GOP lawmakers for reneging on campaign promises. Remember, repealing Obamacare has been the campaign promise of virtually every Republican since 2010.

From a traditional conservative perspective, entitlements and government mandates are central to socialism. So the GOP leadership has shown the world once again it does not consider itself to be mankind’s last best hope for staving off socialism.

Polls and focus groups suggest that the millions of people who voted for Mr. Trump shared with devout free-market acolytes a desire to tell the GOP leadership, “There you go again, compromising our principles.”

The GOP has shown it can take an entitlements laden, crazily designed and executed Democratic law, load it with “new and improved” entitlements and make it even worse, while sticking a “Made by Republicans” label on it.

For seven years GOP lawmakers and would-be presidents have railed against former President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, passed in the dead of night, without dollar figures attached and without consultation with GOP lawmakers. Democrats rammed it through a Congress controlled by their own party and signed into law by a Democratic president.

Momentarily overtaken by fit of honesty, Bill Clinton last year called Obamacare “this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.”

Well, some health-care experts, almost all philosophical conservatives, people who know what actuarial charts are and even those who simply know how to add and subtract are similarly sneering at House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s “American Health Care Act.”

Is it fair to blame the Ryan-McCarthy leadership team for this latest GOP legislative abomination? Yes and No.

Mr. Ryan was once for a more free-market replacement but succumbed to the lamentations of those trembling GOP House members bombarded at town halls by constituents demanding the same entitlements they got under Obamacare. The Ryan-McCarthy Abominable Care Act does that, only under a different name, critics say — and with good reason.

“In the past week or two, Republicans apparently abandoned actuarial principles — just as Obamacare did,” said the Institute for Policy Innovation’s Merrill Matthews. “So Democrats included the mandate to have health insurance to keep people from gaming the system. However, it didn’t work because the penalties were fairly low.”

The House GOP bill in effect repeats that mistake.

But then the GOP’s accommodationist wing thinks fighting for a lost cause is self-defeating. That wing thinks leadership means saving the skins of as many fellow GOP lawmakers as possible, even at the expense of limited-government, free-market principles.

With so many GOP lawmakers having returned town-hall meetings battered by constituents shouting their fears of losing their health insurance if Obamacare entitlements were blown up, the GOP leadership thought it was doing Job No. 1 — defending their members’ seats.

But GOP politics today isn’t so simple.

If you’re a Donald Trump populist-Republican, call the GOP Obamacare replacement proposal an example of the new Donald Trump-era Republicanism.

President Trump promised not to touch Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, the entitlements that have been breaking the U.S. Treasury. Mr. Trump said he wasn’t going to let people die in the streets because they couldn’t afford medical insurance.

Yet most Republicans, including most conservatives, think Mr. Trump is the president America long has needed.

What’s not arguable is that Mr. Trump and his America first, populist message steam-rolled 16 GOP nomination rivals, all of whom had pledged eternal fealty to the free market and small government.

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