Failure to repeal Obamacare fuels warfare within Republican Party

WASHINGTON • The failure by US President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans to dismantle Obamacare has infuriated the party's conservative flank and is intensifying intra-party warfare ahead of the congressional elections next year.

Donors and activists upset by the collapse of the latest Senate healthcare Bill said it has hardened their determination to back conservative candidates in next year's elections, even if that means ousting Republican incumbents.

"I am fed up. I'm beyond frustrated," said Ms Mica Mosbacher, a Houston-based fundraiser, who added that she was "extremely disappointed in Ted Cruz", a Republican senator from Texas who had threatened to oppose the latest healthcare Bill because he wanted to see changes.

Mr David Bozell, president of ForAmerica, a conservative grassroots organisation, said incumbents who failed to line up solidly behind repeal had "shown some true colours" and in doing so, were inviting primary fights for their party's nomination.

Mr Trump vowed during his election campaign last year to scrap the 2010 Affordable Care Act, former president Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, which Republicans see as an expensive form of government overreach. Democrats say it has extended health insurance to millions.

The latest Bill to overturn Obamacare failed on Tuesday after three Senate Republicans, including moderate Susan Collins and conservative Rand Paul, said they could not support it. Republicans control the chamber by 52-48.

In November next year, all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and 33 in the Senate will be up for election. In the Senate, that includes 23 Democrats and eight Republicans, with several in both parties fighting for the nomination.

A shift of either chamber into Democratic hands would make it even more difficult for Mr Trump to pass his agenda of tax reform, toughening immigration laws and rolling back Obamacare. Republicans have not delivered a significant legislative win on any topic since Mr Trump took office in January.

Mr Dave Tamasi, a Republican lobbyist and fundraiser, said he thought it was too soon to know if the healthcare failure would hurt Republicans. "Opponents may try to use... the failure to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act to give their candidacy a little bit of a push. The question is: can that... sustain itself over the long term of an election cycle," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2017, with the headline 'Failure to repeal Obamacare fuels warfare within Republican Party'. Subscribe