The American people have put their trust in the Republican Party to lead. Republicans now hold majorities in Congress and President Trump occupies the White House. But despite being given this great responsibility, the party, a party that I belong to, has engaged in a circular firing squad after the House's failure to pass an Obamacare replacement bill.
President Trump and moderates have blamed the House Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus has pointed the finger at Speaker Paul Ryan, and some conservatives have called for him to step down. But the reality is they all own the failure to pass healthcare reform, and if they can't deliver on their promises to voters they will pay for it politically.
The Democratic Party has shown little willingness to work with President Trump. The current filibuster threat of Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, is telling. If the Democrats can't support Neil Gorsuch, someone who even President Obama's former solicitor general has endorsed, they can't be counted on to work with Republicans on big-ticket items such as tax and healthcare reform. Republicans have only a small majority of 52 members in the Senate. If they can't convince at least 8 Democrats to work with them on some of these legislative items then Republicans will be left with the budget reconciliation process.
As we just found out with healthcare, even passing legislation on a party line vote through reconciliation is not an easy task. Speaker Ryan lost more than the 21 votes he could afford to lose in the House, and a handful of Senate Republicans expressed concern. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose only two Republicans in the Senate.
Given the limitations of the reconciliation process, Republicans must accept that governing requires compromise. Not only are there limitations about what can be included in the reconciliation process but it is also a numbers game. If legislation veers too far right ideologically, leadership will lose moderates in the House and Senate. And if it leans too close to the middle, they will lose conservatives. Therefore, no one will get exactly what they want.
Although there is a desire to move on to tax reform, there is no reason to believe accomplishing that will be any easier. There have already been open disputes over things such as the Border Adjustment Tax, which is supported by leadership but opposed by many conservatives. Despite both Republicans and Democrats expressing a desire to tackle tax reform, it has been three decades since substantive changes have been made. It will be no easy task.
President Trump ran on being a dealmaker and Republicans obtained majorities by promising to repeal and replace Obamacare. Promises were also made to reform the tax code. Failure to achieve these goals, among others, will have political ramifications. Although the electoral map looks good for Republicans in 2018, history shows us that the president's party typically suffers losses in the midterms.
Opposition to Obamacare was pivotal for Republicans in winning back the House and Senate. According to a study done by American Politics Research, Obamacare cost Democratic incumbents 5.8 percentage points at the polls in 2010, leading to a wave election for Republicans that helped them recapture the House. It was also a driving issue in the 2014 midterm elections, and President Trump ran on repealing and replacing the law in 2016.
The party doesn't have to get along or even agree on everything. But voters will be judging Congress on its ability to deliver the changes they were promised.
Lisa Boothe is a contributing columnist for The Washington Examiner and president of High Noon Strategies.