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 CruzGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Texas and North Carolina: Democrats on the verge? Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE (R-Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeWhite House to host swearing-in event for Barrett on Monday night Pence adviser Marty Obst tests positive for COVID-19 Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Utah), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul suggests restaurants should hire COVID-19 survivors as servers during pandemic Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test 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 CollinsHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Barrett sworn in as Supreme Court justice by Thomas Roberts to administer judicial oath to Barrett Tuesday MORE (R-Maine).

Yet, last week, we watched six senators — Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate Health Committee chair asks Cuomo, Newsom to 'stop second guessing' FDA on vaccine efficacy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump MORE (R-Tenn.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP power shift emerges with Trump, McConnell Bill to expand support for community addiction treatment passes House Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference 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 McCainObama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Mark Kelly releases Spanish ad featuring Rep. Gallego More than 300 military family members endorse Biden MORE (R-Ariz.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHarris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Alaska), and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety 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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