Imagine you're a backbench Republican House member. You're a conservative. You didn't see this bill until Monday. All the think tanks you normally rely on — all the think tanks you normally agree with! — hate it. The hospitals hate it. The doctors hate it. The major conservative activist groups hate it. Your leadership appears afraid of CBO's analysis — even though they appointed the director of the CBO! Wouldn't this look a bit weird to you? You want to be a good soldier, of course. Paul Ryan says this is your only chance to repeal and replace Obamacare, and Obamacare is terrible. But you've got to be a bit antsy. How much would it take to shake you?
That's the context in which to read this piece Yuval Levin, a conservative intellectual who is among the party's most influential voices on policy. "I suspect that in a week's time its authors will look back fondly on that difficult start as the glorious interlude before the Congressional Budget Office had scored the proposal," he writes. With a beginning this rocky, it may not take much to scare Republican legislators who are already pretty anxious.
So do I think the GOP plan is built to fail? I don't. Washington is always more Veep than House of Cards. But I do think Republicans went into this process believing that failure was likely, and so tried to hedge against the consequences by putting hard boundaries around the process. They decided that if they were going to fail at this, they were going to fail fast, over the course of a month or two, not waste a year on the project.
But that decision — and the push for secrecy and mania for speed that have accompanied it — has left Republicans in an indefensible position, and with a very weak bill. In some ways, the scariest outcome for Republicans now isn't that they fail, as expected, but that they unexpectedly succeed, and have to implement a bill no one really believes will work.
Commentary by Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief at Vox. Follow him on Twitter @ezraklein.
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