OPINION | Michael Steele: Yes, GOP will own ObamaCare failure

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It is inexplicable as to why Republicans continue to persist in the fallacy of repealing ObamaCare without an effective policy prescription or unifying strategy. Between President Donald Trump, who is wholly agnostic on healthcare, and a GOP leadership seemingly stuck on “repeal and replace,” rank-and-file Republicans are left stranded wondering, “what the hell happened?”

Yes, Senate Republicans — thanks to Wednesday’s tie-breaking vote of presiding officer Vice President Mike Pence — got the votes to proceed with reform. But, also on Wednesday, a GOP repeal-and-replace delay proposal fell five votes short of adoption. Yet, perhaps the most important moments on Wednesday were not those events. Instead, it was the important and moving speech from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The Arizona senator lamented the lost opportunity (the repeal of expensive, command-and-control ObamaCare) but also challenged colleagues to boldly address the opportunity that still lies before the GOP Senate caucus.

It’s good advice.

Passing a “slimmed down” repeal version — the latest measure to be considered — would simply continue the current craziness. Why bother to cut away little bits and pieces, but basically leave ObamaCare in place? That’s not a good approach to addressing legislation that affects millions of people and one-sixth of our economy.

That underscores the underlying problem. Virtually all Republicans campaigned for seven years to “repeal and replace.” They can’t get away from it. And during those seven years the government controls and entitlement solidified and became part and parcel of the healthcare system.

What to do? Here’s a strategy: Stop. Go home, get your act together, get rid of the slogans and now meaningless promise to “repeal and replace,” but more important, when you return to Washington, come back with a serious and practical approach to repair the damage done by ObamaCare.

Senators shouldn’t fear the screaming and shouting of the critics, including the White House; after all, that’s part of the job. Instead, it’s time to recognize the cold truth: You’re going to need Democrats to fix this problem. In the words of McCain, it’s your “obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively.”

So, it’s time for regular order; it’s time to hold committee meetings to expose to the American people the fault lines of ObamaCare. Bring all stakeholders together (not just insurance companies) to forge a common consensus around what 21st century healthcare should be in America. After all, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders helpfully says, “We’re certainly open to having conversations on all fronts as the best way to move this process forward.” Take the White House up on that offer.

Direct repeal is gone with the last fundraising letter. Don’t spend any more political capital on that approach. It’s time to pivot. Senate GOP doctors can still provide the patient with the right type of medicine. But putting leeches on the patient is not the answer.

Republicans can honor their seven-year pledge to voters by starting fresh with two simple premises: Any reforms shouldn’t increase the number of uninsured or the budget deficit. And don’t make health insurance any more expensive for Americans. Yeah, that’s going to take some work.

But, the best way for GOP senators to proceed, after all the hearings and compromises, is to show they are the practical adults in the room. Fix as many things as possible that are broken and strengthen the overall healthcare system with competitive tools that work.

Republicans showed for seven years they could be a formidable opposition party. Now it’s time to show they can govern.

Michael Steele is the former Republican National Committee chairman and former lieutenant governor of Maryland. He is also an MSNBC political analyst.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Donald Trump John McCain Mike Pence

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