Moderates killed ObamaCare repeal — will they kill other conservative priorities?
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Republican moderates in the Senate killed ObamaCare repeal. Many conservatives, who are anxious to get big policy wins on the scoreboard this year, are beginning to wonder if the Republican majority will ever get its act together.

While Republican moderates constantly tried to extort more money from leadership to get their votes, conservatives like Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOcasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (R-Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Utah), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses MORE (R-Ky.) made concession after concession, finally getting only a watered down version of the Consumer Freedom Option, which would let Americans on the nongroup market opt-out of ObamaCare.

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The conservative senators who have been the target of so much criticism for simply believing that Republicans should do what they said they were going to do came through last week. The moderates, who never fail to let down conservatives, once again proved themselves to be utterly worthless at passing meaningful legislation.

But as conservatives in the House and Senate did their best to find a path forward on ObamaCare repeal, we learned this was never really about repeal; it was only a rebranding of ObamaCare. The House Freedom Caucus was harshly criticized by establishment Republicans, but without their efforts to find a compromise, the House’s version of the bill might never have passed. In the Senate, Sens. Cruz, Lee, and Paul faced similar criticism.

At the beginning of the year, the one thing Republicans presumably agreed on was the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill. This bill went through Congress with only five Republican votes against it, including Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R-Maine).

Yet, last week, we watched six senators — Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R-Tenn.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism MORE (R-W.Va.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJuan Williams: Obama's dire warnings about right-wing media Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (R-Ariz.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right Whoopi Goldberg blasts Republicans not speaking against Trump: 'This is an attempted coup' MORE (R-Alaska), and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBiden says transition outreach from Trump administration has been 'sincere' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE (R-Ohio) — who voted for virtually the exact same bill approximately 18 months ago switch their votes and side with Democrats to keep ObamaCare in place. Unsurprisingly, Sen. Collins also voted with Democrats.

The entire ObamaCare “repeal and replace” effort was frustrating from the very beginning. It started with a budget resolution with a nearly $8 trillion budget deficit over 10 years. The House version of the “repeal and replace” bill, the American Health Care Act, fell short of nearly a decade’s worth of promises to actually repeal ObamaCare. The Senate’s version, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, was unquestionably worse, truly an amazing feat, because it largely kept ObamaCare in place.

While the conservatives like Sens. Cruz, Lee, and Paul got to yes, moderates, none of whom are facing reelection next year, still refused to support a “skinny repeal” amendment that mostly kept ObamaCare on the books. Still, it was the conservatives who constantly faced criticism.

Some were interested only in the tax portion of the bill, which was important, or Medicaid modernization, a truly groundbreaking set of reforms, although some of the changes could be easily undermined by a future Congress and president. Lost the in the equation was good health insurance policy that would truly offer freedom for Americans who purchase coverage on the nongroup market.

The failure of Senate Republicans to follow through on their promises to repeal ObamaCare is frustrating. Congressional Republicans are entering the August recess with no significant legislative victories.

Whether there is a path forward on doing anything to address the serious problems with ObamaCare is a question that no one can answer. But with fundamental tax reform next up on the agenda, there is no margin for error.

The Senate Republican Conference absolutely has to get its act together. If failure persists, conservative activists — who pound the pavement and make calls for Republican candidates -- may eventually begin asking themselves, “What good is a Republican majority that can’t get anything done?”

Adam Brandon is the president of FreedomWorks, an organization dedicated to helping activists fight for lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. Follow him on Twitter @adam_brandon.


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