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 TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee 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.


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 McCainWe need an independent 1/6 commission that the whole country can have confidence in GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra The Memo: Is Trump mounting a comeback — or finally fading? 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.


Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHere's who Biden is now considering for budget chief House Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal The Memo: Is Trump mounting a comeback — or finally fading? MORE (R-S.C.) called it a "fraud," and Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsIndigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March 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 CassidyBill CassidyTrump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC Republicans, please save your party Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra 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 McCarthyHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill Parliamentarian strikes down Pelosi priority in aid package Democrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump 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 ObamaHere's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Pentagon issues report revealing ex-White House doctor 'belittled' subordinates, violated alcohol policies The Reagan era is over 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.


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.