Happily, history presents us some potent examples (Social Security, civil rights legislation) of how big, complex bills should be done.
Take your time. Try to tune in to the mood of the country. Get some support if you can from the opposite party. Democrats in 2009 to 2010 may heard of this somewhere, but went out of their way to do exactly the opposite, and passed health care fast on the smallest of margins, enraged the Republicans almost on purpose, and courted disaster by insisting on passing their measure after the public screamed 'no.'
As a result, they lost the House in 2010 (after the bill had passed), lost the Senate in 2014 (after the effects of the bill became evident), and went on to lose everything in the 2016 elections. Their losing candidate for president happened to be the very same woman whose big, complex health bill way back in the 90's had crashed.
As a result, the Republicans decided to imperil their own much smaller majorities by presenting a bill put together not in months but in weeks, also on the idea of pass-it-now-fix-it-later, also because they said they would do it, and also without much support. They can thank their lucky stars this show closed on the road, because bad as this is, it is much, much better than spending two years explaining why millions lost coverage, without giving anyone else that much more. "The lesson of Obamacare is that passage of a major health-care law never puts health care behind you, only in front of you," Rich Lowry tells us, correctly. For Democrats, (and for the Clintons, in the 1994 midterms), this did not end well.
Last week, Byron York listed 14 reasons why the repeal motion failed. One was that the Reagan Democrats in Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere who gave Trump his margin in some ways are Democrats, who like the idea of government benefits and may feel that they need them.
Another is, as he says, that "the arcs of Obamacare failure and GOP outrage are out of sync." Anger peaked in 2010 when the bill passed and in 2014, when its provisions went into effect, and the upheaval and damage they caused became evident. That was excellent timing when it came to the midterms, but less so when it came to the repeal agenda, which was seven and three years too late. In 2014, the ads and the airwaves were filled with the complaints of people who lost access to doctors and coverage or suffered huge hikes in their costs, and their complaints were effective. Now, the complaints would be coming from people who lost their Obamacare coverage — yes, some people really were aided by it — and they too would move people.
The CBO estimated that 24 million would one day lose coverage. You can rest assured that between now and 2018 you would be hearing from every last one of them. Ads would appear, sick little children would cry on the news, and every day every Republican would be asked to account for their suffering. It would have been best if this matter had not come up now, but better to let it drown now and have the waters close over it. 'Repeal and Replace' should take place over years, as big laws do sometimes, taking advice, talking to voters, studying the mistakes made by previous efforts and waiting for the institutional flaws in the current regime to become even more evident.
It takes only a short time to blow up your party. But Rome wasn't built in a day.
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."