President Trump effectively threw in the towel on his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare during his first official State of the Union speech.
During the speech, Trump referenced Obamacare once, and it was telling both for what he did say and what he didn't say.
"We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare — the individual mandate is now gone," Trump said.
By touting the provision in the tax law that zeroed out individual mandate penalties as a repeal of the "core" part of Obamacare, Trump was effectively trying to elide the fact that the rest of the law — its taxes, spending, and regulatory infrastructure — remains intact.
That was Trump's single mention of Obamacare. At no point did he follow up by saying that repealing the mandate was a start, but that he would continue to fight for repeal of the broader law.
That's a far cry of his promises to repeal and replace Obamacare during the campaign, and the rhetoric he used last February, during his first speech to a joint session of Congress.
Back then, he said, "Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and, at the same time, provide better healthcare." He went on to declare, "Action is not a choice, it is a necessity."
Trump's words are somewhat of an acknowledgment of the reality in Congress, with most House Republicans lacking the appetite to have another go at repealing and replacing Obamacare, and still no consensus bill that could get 50 votes in the Senate.
His words also offer a preview of what we can expect to hear from Republicans this year when pressed on why they failed to deliver a central promise they carried with them through four consecutive election cycles. Again and again, they will tell conservatives: "We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare."
Of course, Americans may not be taxed for failing to purchase insurance, but if they want to purchase insurance, they will still be crushed by Obamacare's premiums and be restricted to plans designed by regulators.