Obamacare repeal is dead, for now, after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan shelved the American Health Care Act without so much as a floor vote in the House of Representatives.
The AHCA was a disaster from the start: a half-baked soufflé of half-measures that mollified no one. It was rolled out and almost immediately opposed by some of the major conservative action organizations and think tanks. A "manager's amendment" attached to the legislation late in the game that attempted to appease some of the opposition did little.
That Republican leadership would neglect to get all its ducks in a row on Obamacare repeal, after having seven years to come up with something they could support, was a governing gaffe of epic proportions.
Republican leadership let the AHCA debacle go on for too long before shelving it. But it was better than suffering the indignity of losing a floor vote, which would have been a defeat that Obamacare repeal may not have been able to recover from. This blow, however, is going to be substantial.
The biggest question is what comes next from the Trump administration. Obamacare repeal never seemed to be as high of a priority for the Make America Great Again movement, with immigration and trade being their signature issues from the start. Trump, for his part, rattled his saber about AHCA, reportedly demanding a vote no matter what and claiming that the effort to repeal Obamacare would die if AHCA did. It now seems as though Trump's efforts will be focused elsewhere – if they weren't already.
There's blame to go around everywhere here: Ryan and the rest of GOP leadership for pressing so far forward with such a flawed bill; Trump for playing both sides, risking his own capital while appearing so disinterested; a Republican caucus that refused to get on the same page for so long. AHCA was just a massive unforced error: Democrats didn't lift a finger, and the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare went down in flames.
Trump loyalists in the media have all fingers pointed at Ryan for this debacle. They're at least half right. The bill that got pushed by GOP leadership was full of holes, and opposed by most health reform experts on the conservative side of the aisle. But Trump picked a lot of unnecessary fights – accusing the House Freedom Caucus of being hypocrites, and demanding a vote on AHCA rather than allowing the process to go back to the drawing board. He lost on those, and his brusque leadership style is at least partly to blame for the implosion of this iteration of health reform.
Americans are stuck with Obamacare, for now. The only question is if this disaster left enough Republican fingerprints on the healthcare system that voters will blame Republicans if, when open enrollment and premium numbers come in this year, there's another wave of cancellations and premium hikes as a result of the current status quo.
Kevin Glass (@KevinWGlass) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is director of outreach and policy at The Franklin Center and was previously managing editor at Townhall. His views here are his own.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.