America's newest comedy troupe: House GOP

There's 's not much levity in politics today, save for “New Yorker” satirist Andy Borowitz and maybe The Onion. But at their Baltimore retreat last weekend, House Republicans stepped up to provide Borowitz- and Onion-worthy laughs.

Along with welcoming their political master, President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE, these self-avowed conservatives promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and to deal with the spiraling federal budget deficit — after the 2020 elections.

In evaluating that commitment, the record is instructive — so, as the sportscasters say, let's go to the tape.

ADVERTISEMENT

For more than nine years, congressional Republicans have failed to devise a viable health care alternative.

In the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump promised to offer an ObamaCare replacement that would be "something terrific" — better coverage, more protection at a lower cost.

We're still waiting.

For two years, while the Republicans controlled the entire law-making apparatus in Washington — the White House and both houses of Congress — they failed.

Trump continues to denounce John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE, who died more than a year ago, for sabotaging an alternative in 2017.

That bill, called a “skinny repeal,” was an acknowledged sham. It was rushed to the floor without a single hearing, and — according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office — would have thrown at least 15 million off the insurance rolls and caused premiums to soar.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenator-jurors who may not be impartial? Remove them for cause Broad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa What to watch for as Senate organizes impeachment on day one MORE (R-S.C.) called it a "fraud," and Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsDrug price outrage threatens to be liability for GOP Overnight Defense: Iran takes credit for rocket attack on US base | Trump briefed | Trump puts talk of Iraq withdrawal on hold | Progressives push to block funding for Iran war | Trump backs off threat to hit Iranian cultural sites McConnell to GOP on impeachment rules: I have the votes MORE (R-S.D.) feared the health insurance "markets may collapse” if it was enacted. Both, under pressure from Trump, voted for it under the phony pretense it might be a holding action.

McCain, an opponent of Obamacare, refused to play this duplicitous game and cast his famous thumbs down vote to kill it.

Desperate, Sen. Graham and Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyBig Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Trump trade deal faces uncertain Senate timeline On The Money: Senate panel advances Trump's new NAFTA despite GOP gripes | Trade deficit falls to three-year low | Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief MORE (R-La.) came back with a measure turning over many of ACA's functions to the states. This not only would have added to the uninsured rolls, and especially hit poor Medicaid beneficiaries, but also threatened guaranteed coverage protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions, which every Republican proposal did.

The Trump administration, which still is trying to have the courts throw out the entire law, used a scaled-back Graham-Cassidy measure in its budget.

The result under any Trump or Congressional Republican initiative, says Aviva Aaron-Dine, the top health care analyst at the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, "would be that lower income people, older people and sicker people would all be exposed to higher costs, and overall the individual market would look a lot like it did before the ACA."

However House Republican claims to go after the deficit following the next election is even funnier.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Mark Mellman: A failure of GOP leadership MORE (R-Calif.), as shallow on policy as he is steeped in politics, vowed "the first thing we would do is make sure our debt is taken care of.”

In the first fiscal year under Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama marks MLK Day by honoring King for his 'poetic brilliance' and 'moral clarity' Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina National Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo MORE, largely due to the greatest financial crisis since the depression, the deficit soared to more than $1.4 trillion. Congressional Republicans were horrified. When the annual deficit was cut by a third the last several years of the Obama Administration, they remained critical, shocked at the fiscal irresponsibility.

Candidate Trump insisted he not only would eliminate deficits but — within eight years — wipe out the entire national debt.

Two promises he kept were to enact a massive tax cut costing $1.9 trillion over a decade and not touching spending on the big Medicare and Social Security benefits.

No surprise that the annual deficit has soared to over $1 trillion this year and is projected to remain at that level — or higher — throughout the next decade.

The national debt has increased to more than $22 trillion, and by the end of the next decade will rise to 95 percent of the gross domestic product, the highest level since right after World War II.

ADVERTISEMENT

The vast majority of House Republicans voted for those huge tax cuts currently propelling the deficit and have remained silent on cutting politically popular entitlements.

In responding to McCarthy and other born-again-to-be deficit hawks, Maya McGuineas, who runs the bi-partisan committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, notes: "Having people who voted for the tax cuts and huge spending increases now calling for fiscal responsibility rings a bit hollow, to put it mildly."

These Republicans calculate they might get away with this hypocrisy by focusing on Democrats wanting to kill ObamaCare to replace it with a government-run plan and embracing a wildly expensive domestic agenda.

That's their only choice under Trump, to whom they have sold their policy, as well as their political souls.

Albert R. Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter-century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @alhuntdc.