Time for Republicans to suck it up and produce

In Capitol Review by Mark Hillman

The repeal-and-replace debacle ought to be a cold shower for every Republican in Washington. It demonstrated that with so many Republicans advancing their own agenda, the party’s lawmakers can’t shoot straight – except at each other.

Republicans of all stripes now face the urgent task of proving that they can actually deliver on their promises. Stop racing to the TV cameras and start governing.

Republicans must produce results well before the 2018 election or they will deserve to be thrown out.

This isn’t as difficult as it might appear. President Trump is no policy wonk. With few exceptions, he cares more about “winning” than about details. Help him win, and he’ll be your ally. Embarrass him, and he’ll bargain with Democrats – including for future Supreme Court appointments.

Governing is best viewed as a football game. Move the ball forward with good policies on a variety of issues and build momentum for a successful drive with legislation that brings credibility to your agenda. That creates opportunity for most everyone on the team to take credit for success on their favorite issue.

Typically, Democrats execute this playbook of “incrementalism” better than Republicans. In part, that’s because Democrats see government as a lifetime pursuit.

Successful “Hail Mary” passes are rare. Sometimes they result in epic failure. ObamaCare was a big play for Democrats, but it flopped and cost them dearly in three elections. Republicans’ failed attempt at repeal-and-replace will be costly unless they immediately learn from it and start working together.

Republicans must start governing like there’s no tomorrow because, frankly, there may not be. Too often, Republicans govern timidly, more concerned about getting re-elected than about keeping their promises. Instead, each Republican lawmaker should ask, “If I only have these two years, what do I want to accomplish?”

Democrats backed ObamaCare, warts and all, because they knew the long-term value of enshrining another entitlement. Even if they lost re-election, they advanced their broader cause because, despite ObamaCare’s failures, those who benefit from it don’t want to lose their benefits.

It’s hard to assigned blame for the initial failure of repeal-and-replace because there’s so much blame to go around. Like it or not, Republicans now own responsibility for health care because they’ve had a chance to fix it.

Speaker Paul Ryan is a thoughtful policy wonk with a comprehensive plan to reform government, but he’s not so good at “herding cats” in his caucus. On the other hand, nobody else wants his job, so the Speaker must find ways to work more inclusively and to avoid becoming the second coming of John Boehner.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus must realize that voters would rather hear them brag about actually passing bills to advance freedom and roll back big government than to hear them brag about their pristine voting records with no results. The same goes Club For Growth, Heritage Action, and Senate Conservatives Fund – some of which I’ve supported – who recently appeared more interested in fundraising against “RyanCare” than replacing ObamaCare with something better.

If Republicans never substantially replace ObamaCare, this lost opportunity will be a lasting example of why the perfect must not be the enemy of the good.

Finally, President Trump must focus on what matters most. To those who elected him, what matters most is actually making America stronger, more free and more prosperous. Tweets about Ivanka’s shoes, Fox News reports, or gratuitous insults at detractors are distractions that accomplish nothing but require time and energy for his staff to clean up. Don’t kick every barking dog!

Anything that doesn’t repeal ObamaCare, reform the tax code, put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, reform illegal immigration, strengthen the military, or reform Dodd-Frank is superfluous.

Please, Republicans, suck it up and do your job!