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March 29, 2017 6:38 am

Repeal and Replace Paul Ryan

avatar by Eli Verschleiser


House Speaker Paul Ryan. Photo: Screenshot.

“Doing big things is hard,” Paul Ryan said in a press conference after the defeat of the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Really? Then maybe the speaker of the House — and the 2012 candidate for vice president — should have picked an easier career.

As speaker, Ryan’s job was to round up the necessary votes to keep the commitments made by his party to replace the Affordable Care Act. Many Republicans saw repealing Obamacare as their top priority, believing that it created new problems, hurt small businesses and was the embodiment of government meddling in private medicine.

Crafting a bill that fixes those problems without creating worse ones isn’t easy, but the Republicans in Congress had plenty of time to work on it. Instead, Ryan and his cronies seemed to be intent on passing the repeal bill on the anniversary of Obamacare’s passage, March 23 — thus placing symbolism above substance. Ryan believed that he could tear down, in 17 legislative days, what it took the Obama administration 187 days to enact.

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With a president happy to sign a repeal bill, the speaker spent weeks negotiating, but in the end couldn’t deliver the 216 votes necessary. It’s like the old metaphor of a dog chasing a truck, left to wonder what happens once he actually catches it.

Now everyone is talking about building coalitions and working with the Democrats to craft a bill that has broader appeal, rather than rushing forward with a reckless bill. But that should have been the approach in the first place.

After the repeal bill was pulled, Trump thanked Ryan, saying that “he worked very, very hard.” Trump aides are publicly insisting that he does not blame the speaker, but rather the members of Congress who refused to act, and the Democrats who are married to Obamacare even as it “explodes.”

But privately. the president must be seething at a man who was extremely late in supporting the Trump-Pence ticket, even as Trump blazed his way through the primaries. And President Trump recently invited his millions of Twitter followers to listen as Jeanine Pirro, on her Fox TV show, ripped into Ryan and called for him to be replaced.

“A president who made repeal of Obamacare a hallmark used valuable political capital,” said Pirro. To Ryan, she said: “You came in with your swagger and experience and sold him a bill of goods which ends up a complete and total failure, and you allow our president, in his first 100 days, to come out of the box like that?”

She’s right. Ryan should have been the president’s front man on thebattlefield, and if he can’t lead, he should get out of the way.

Although he’s been in the House since 1999 and speaker for a year and a half, Ryan didn’t seem to understand the political fault lines in his own party. While there is no overt sign of a movement to replace Ryan, allies of the president are blaming Ryan, some quietly and some openly.

“I think Paul Ryan did a major disservice to President Trump, I think the president was extremely courageous in taking on health care and trusted others to come through with a program he could sign off on,” Chris Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, told Bloomberg News.

The Republican failure on health care is not a great position for the president to be in as he shifts his focus to the, perhaps more difficult, fight over tax reform.

The president and his allies in Congress need to get the ball rolling, and they can start by putting leaders in place with the ability to get things done, who can bring in Democrats when possible, and who do more than just talk about an agenda that makes America great again.

Paul Ryan doesn’t seem to be up to the task. It remains to be seen if the president has a viable alternative, but if one emerges, I for one won’t be sorry to see the switch.

Eli Verschleiser is a financier, real estate developer, and investor in commercial real estate. In his Philanthropy, Mr. Verschleiser is on the board of Trustees for the American Jewish Congress, Co-Founder of, & President for OurPlace, a non-profit organization that provides support, shelter, and counseling for troubled Jewish youth. Mr. Verschleiser is a frequent commentator on political and social services matters. Follow the author on Twitter at @E_Verschleiser

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