After seven years of promises, seven years of warnings that Obamacare was perhaps the worst law that had ever been written, Republicans finally got their chance to repeal it. They failed, spectacularly, in late July.
Lawmakers now have less than a month before the dream of Obamacare repeal is truly dead. A few senators are trying to drag one last-ditch plan across the finish line, but Senate leadership has all but said repeal is over. House Speaker Paul Ryan has moved on to tax reform. A small bipartisan health care bill is in the works.
Republicans, including the Obamacare opponents outside the halls of the Capitol who so often set the agenda for Congress, are in uncharted territory, wandering the wilderness without the promise of Obamacare repeal to cling to. Now they are beginning to imagine what life looks like now that the dream of "Obamacare repeal" might really be dead.
I asked six of these Obamacare opponents, policy experts at conservative and libertarian think tanks, what they learned from the spectacular failure of Obamacare repeal and what they think happens now, in this strange new reality we all occupy.
They mostly agreed that Republicans should drop the idea of "repealing and replacing" Obamacare — but otherwise there was little consensus. Some think the next steps must be incremental and bipartisan. Others think that there is still a place for comprehensive health care reform plans. Given the increasing appetite for Democrats to embrace single payer, some aren't sure they have trustworthy allies on the other side of the aisle. At least one is still holding out hope that Obamacare could be undone, and soon.
Wounds must be licked and fissures must be healed, but the overall impression is a movement moving on from perhaps the most disastrous and humiliating legislative failure in a generation. They aren't sure quite sure where they're heading. But they have some ideas.