The few conservatives we have in Congress have suddenly found themselves caught in a traditional V-shaped ambush, with bands of intersecting fire coming from both Republicans and Democrats.
From the establishment’s left, their efforts to repeal Obamacare were called unconscionable, cruel and even corrupt. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it represented “a merciless assault on working families.”
But conservatives were only trying to save the healthcare market from an inevitable financial death spiral that’d leave those families with the type of substandard care seen in most European nations.
From the establishment’s right, their pledge to vote against its poorly written replacement – the American Health Care Act – was also described as too demanding, puritanical, and even disloyal. President Donald Trump, reeling after the bill’s defeat, sent this tweet: “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”
But conservatives were only trying to keep the promise they (and Trump) made to repeal – in its entirety – Obamacare, and not simply tweak the program here and there.
Regardless of what the establishment may think, Americans owe a debt of gratitude to most of the members of the Freedom Caucus, and especially to U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Hunstville.
Brooks, along with every Republican member of our state’s Congressional delegation, promised that he’d vote to repeal Obamacare when given the chance. But when push came to shove, only Brooks kept that promise, and he kept it while under immense professional and personal pressure to flip.
“As much as I would like to vote with many of my Republican colleagues in Congress and in the White House (most of whom privately tell me they dislike the bad policy in this bill), I will vote against the American Health Care Act because it has more bad policy than any bill I have ever faced,” Brooks said in a statement last week. “I simply cannot, and will not, vote for bad legislation that hurts so many Americans solely because Washington friends and colleagues ask me to.”
That’s what voters want – for our elected officials to keep a promise, a whole promise, and nothing but a promise.
Brooks did. Most of his Republican colleagues did not.
We’ve heard every reason from “Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all,” to “Get what we can now and come back for more later.”
The problem with these sorry excuses is that the bill cemented Obamacare’s foundational policies while apparently giving them the Republican Party’s seal of approval. So are we to expect them to vote to retain a harmful Obamacare regulation now, when their position is strongest, then repeal it later when their position is weaker? Nonsense.
Also, while incrementalism is normally a sensible path, in Washington it nearly always runs in one direction – growth! Government programs slowly increase. They rarely ever slowly decrease. Conservatives shouldn’t, and some didn’t, naively expect this trend to magically change.
Meanwhile, there were ample reasons for true conservatives to oppose the bill, for it ran contrary to many of our movement’s most favored processes.
Conservatives believe in the process of subsidiarity, which is allowing a problem to be solved by whatever capable entity that is smallest, least centralized, or closest to the problem to begin with. So why should a conservative support a bill that has our largest entity – the federal government – making detailed decisions that could best be handled by one of our smallest entities – a patient, a doctor, and an insurance provider?
Conservatives believe in the process of limited government. So why should they support a bill that has the federal government retaining authorities and responsibilities that are best left to individuals, families, businesses, or at the very most state governments?
Conservatives also believe in the free market process. So why should they vote for a bill that tells a company it must provide certain benefits to every one of its customers, even if some don’t need or even want that particular product?
There’s no good reason for a conservative to do any of those things, and that’s why Mo Brooks was entirely justified by not supporting that phony repeal-and-replace bill.