Well, that was a wild few weeks. While the Democrats endured a grueling year-long process with countless twists and turns to successfully pass the Affordable Care Act back in 2010, the Republican repeal effort lasted all of three weeks. It was pulled prior to a vote in the House of Representatives, a vote for which Speaker of the House Paul Ryan clearly didn't have the necessary votes. So, if you're someone who relies on the health care law, you might be wondering: Can you keep Obamacare now? Is former president Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement finally safe?
The answer is complicated, a classic yes-and-no scenario. First things first, yes: Obamacare remains the law of the land, and neither President Trump nor Speaker Ryan have given any indication that the party will return to the issue anytime soon. That means, pending a major shift in Republican politics, the years-long effort to repeal Obamacare seems to have failed.
However, the law and the people who depend on it are not out of the woods yet. That's because the two biggest names in the GOP, Trump and Ryan, have both made statements about the impending collapse of Obamacare. These statements make it clear not just that they expect the law to fail, but that they're both heavily incentivized for the law to fail.
Trump has long made a point of saying that his real desire would be to "let [Obamacare] implode completely," then blame Democrats for the ensuing chaos. Now, he gets that opportunity, but not as a passive observer ― rather, as a president who can meaningfully hurt the law through his own actions. Here's what he said at CPAC earlier this month, as detailed by ThinkProgress:
That's the big concern right now for Obamacare supporters. There are concrete ways for the executive branch to strategically weaken the law and make its failure more likely ― like Trump's executive order that loosened the IRS rules on the reporting requirements of the individual mandate. If you're somebody who relies on the ACA for your health coverage, or someone who fears what could happen if the GOP got another crack at replacement, this is the next frontier in this political conflict that you should keep an eye on.
Pres. Trump after health care bill is pulled: “We were very close...the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode." pic.twitter.com/ppEFrf9IQu— ABC News (@ABC) March 24, 2017
Indeed, in his statement following the bill's withdrawal, Trump stated right at the top that his preferred political move is to "let Obamacare explode," which is not something a politician is supposed to say out loud.
In short, as it stands now the Republicans need Obamacare to fail, both to validate their previous criticisms, and to wipe away the indignity of the failed repeal attempt that just went down. That means any way they can subtly undermine the law going forward only serves their political ends.