Okay, so we got that out of our system. Fine. Now, some serious work.
As I see it, Republicans have 2 most urgent concerns with the healthcare bill:
- the tax mechanism, which weighs on work, saving and investment
- the added Medicaid burden on states, which the federal government promises to cushion, but with uncertain reliability.
Fixes to those problems must move through the House, through the Senate – with the same 60 vote requirement that we have defended since 2009 as indispensable to the American constitutional system – and then to the president. Those fixes will require deal-making, cooperation, and yes compromise. If we are unprepared to engage in those activities, we are resigning ourselves to the full operation of the existing law over the next 2 years.
At every step of this process, Republican tactics have defeated Republican strategy.
The inopportune Pat Toomey primary challenge to Arlen Specter drove Specter to the Democrats at the worst possible moment, delivering them the 60th vote in the Senate needed to pass the law. The refusal to do business in the Senate Finance Committee discarded hopes of a Senate draft aligned with Republican views.
The results are as we saw.
Now is belatedly time to bring tactics into alignment with strategy. For some, the real strategic goal is simply to elect members and replace President Obama. Healthcare is just a means to a larger end. Ironically and audaciously, these people advertise themselves as the most “principled” conservatives. They are anything but.
If the strategy is to address the most pressing threats in the existing bill, Republican tactics have to adapt. If today’s vote cleared the air so that real work can begin, then fine. If however today’s vote represented the overture to 24 months of symbolic politics and pre-election positioning – then it has mightily disserved the cause it supposedly upheld.