It’s been a rough week for GOP leadership. Their Obamacare replacement plan has been almost universally opposed by conservative pundits, policy analysts, and advocacy groups. Despite early success moving the bill quickly through two House committees, it’s clear that the battle for health care reform is going to be long and hard-fought.
In other words, the deliberative branch of government will actually have to deliberate. This is oddly refreshing given the tendency of presidents and party elites to jam legislation down the throats of the American people, often with little debate or dissent.
The balance of powers is finally making a comeback.
The Financial Times reports on the drama behind closed doors in the Capitol:
While careful not to criticise Mr Trump in public, many Republican lawmakers privately criticise the new president as a Washington neophyte with little idea of how relations between the White House and Congress work — or how much guidance the executive branch should be giving.
The White House has so far taken a back seat role on healthcare and tax reform — its two biggest priorities — and left Congress to do the heavy lifting. But how Mr Trump manages Congress on these first big legislative issues will serve as an important guide to the prospects for the rest of his agenda.
What these Republican lawmakers see as Trump’s flaw is actually his greatest asset from a constitutional perspective. The man is hands-off on the hard stuff, leaving Congress to craft legislation and take the blame if it goes awry.
One could write this off as a result of Trump’s narcissism and incessant refusal to take blame. That’s fair enough, but the outcome is positive nonetheless: leaving legislation to be drafted and debated by Congress with input from the American people, as the Constitution imagined.
And the input sure is coming in. An impressive coalition of outlets and advocacy groups have been applying pressure on lawmakers to go back to the drawing board and return with a more conservative solution. Even the Heritage Foundation and Breitbart are getting in on the action, a positive development for two outfits that are often accused of cozying up to the GOP establishment and Trump administration, respectively.
That’s not to say that Trump is completely out of the picture. He held a secret meeting to chastise groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity for not falling in line. So far, however, that’s done little to discourage them or any other conservative voice from speaking truth to power.
A prime example is Senator Rand Paul, the face of the opposition in Congress. After Trump singled him out in a tweet on Tuesday, Paul told Politico he feels even more “emboldened” to fight for a better solution to America’s healthcare woes.
In sum, Washington is working exactly as it should thus far in the health care fight. The president is in the back seat while conservatives inside and outside the Hill push for comprehensive reform. Maybe the Constitution isn’t quite dead yet!