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Politics

How Republicans can get everyone to stop blaming them

Catherine Rampell on

Obamacare repeal? Dead.

Tax reform? Dead and demoted to tax cuts, now also on life support.

Republicans may have unified control of government, but they seem curiously incapable of getting major agenda items through.

Maybe it's because Republicans have insisted on cutting out Democrats and doing things unilaterally. Or at least they had been until Thursday, when a bipartisan coalition of 24 senators signed onto a bill to patch up Obamacare. While President Trump and congressional Republican leadership remain skeptical about working with the enemy, this could be the start of a turnaround for the GOP.

To be clear, "bipartisan" ideas are not necessarily "good" ideas. Sometimes a policy that both parties support turns out to be a huge mistake.

As a political matter, though, it can be extremely useful for the majority party to get buy-in from the other side, for three reasons.

First, it offers political cover to do necessary but unpopular things.

If you actually want to reform and simplify the tax code, you have to close loopholes benefitting some constituents. If you want to cut rates without increasing deficits, you need to find money elsewhere, either through spending cuts or other tax increases. Which some affected group is going to be unhappy about.

Likewise, if you want to wring money out of the health-care system, you likely have to inflict pain on someone, whether it's patients, providers, insurers or drugmakers.

In other words, despite what Trump may claim, few policy changes are really win-win. There's almost always going to be at least one loser, who will likely be loud and angry.

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