GOP goes into the repeal-and-replace breach

Some Republicans still yearning to repeal Obamacare after two failed attempts in the Senate want to try yet again, with the prospect of only embarrassing themselves once more and advertising their ineptness.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which is not the normal “body of jurisdiction” on the matter and has never held a hearing on the issue, has decided to throw a well-chewed bone to President Trump and fellow Republicans, who are desperate to claim some legislative success this year.

Many other GOP legislators seemed content to bury this multi-failed turkey in Capitol Hill’s backyard, and move on to tax reform and other promises that Trump made as the party’s 2016 nominee. Johnson and a few others appear willing to reiterate their inability to achieve what previously was rejected more than 60 times in the House — to repeal and replace Obamacare.

In more rational times, “R and R” stood for rest and relaxation. But this band of Trump-perplexed Republicans is having difficulty living with their expiring dream of choking the former Democratic president’s prime legislative baby in its crib.

In fact, to the immense frustration and dismay of the would-be executioners, Obamacare has turned out to be surprisingly popular with millions of insured Americans, especially the estimated 20 million or so who would lose it under repeal-and-replace.

The threat of losing them as voters in the next midterm elections is a sword hanging over the Grand Old Party as it already faces serious defections at the polls in 2018. The loss of its majorities in the Senate and even the House are distinct possibilities in reaction to the nightmare Trump leadership.

Notably, the harassed president has yet not demonstrated any notable engagement himself in the third re-try to repeal and replace, which now seems particularly bleak in terms of the realistic time frame imposed.

Unless the Senate votes on it by Sept. 30, the window to do so with 50 or 51 votes under “reconciliation” rules will close, and 60 votes will required to do the deed, with 48 Senate Democrats ready to say no.

The Republican skepticism about the chances of success was reflected by Sen. John Thune of North Dakota, among the party’s Senate leaders. He was quoted in The Washington Post as telling one of the new attempt’s authors, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, he was “a grave robber” because Obamacare repeal and replace effort “was six feet under” and would require difficult revival.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed none too excited about the last-gasp attempt, which only underscored his failure in the first two efforts. Trump showed no reluctance to place the blame on McConnell’s shoulders, obliging the president to turn to Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi as allies in breaking the longtime legislative stalemate on Capitol Hill.

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Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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