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GOP Struggles to Govern                03/27 06:01

   The Republican Party of "no" for Democrat Barack Obama's eight years is 
having a hard time getting to "yes" in the early Donald Trump era.

   (AP) -- The Republican Party of "no" for Democrat Barack Obama's eight years 
is having a hard time getting to "yes" in the early Donald Trump era.

   The unmitigated failure of the GOP bill to replace Obamacare underscored 
that Republicans are a party of upstart firebrands, old-guard conservatives and 
moderates in Democratic-leaning districts. Despite the GOP monopoly on 
Washington, they are pitted against one another and struggling for a way to 
govern.

   The divisions cost the party its best chance to fulfill a seven-year promise 
to undo Obama's Affordable Care Act and cast doubt on whether the 
Republican-led Congress can do the monumental --- the first overhaul of the 
nation's tax system in more than 30 years --- as well as the basics --- keeping 
the government open at the end of next month, raising the nation's borrowing 
authority later this year and passing the 12 spending bills for federal 
agencies and departments.

   While the anti-establishment bloc that grew out of the tea party's rise 
helped the Republicans win majorities in Congress in 2010 and 2014, the 
internal divide, complicated further by Trump's independence, threatens the 
GOP's ability to deliver on other promises.

   "I think we have to do some soul-searching internally to determine whether 
or not we are even capable as a governing body," said Rep. Kevin Cramer of 
North Dakota, in the bitter aftermath of the health care debacle.

   Despite a commanding majority in the House, an advantage in the Senate and 
Trump in the White House, Republicans hardly seem to be on the same team.

   "There are some folks in the Republican House caucus who have yet to make 
the pivot from complaining to governing," said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. 
"And this is a White House controlled by a politician who is not really trying 
to lead a party."

   The GOP health care bill exposed philosophical fissures masked by years of 
rejecting and resisting all things Obama. The legislation's provision to repeal 
essential health benefits such as maternity care and emergency services was 
designed to appeal to hard-line conservatives who don't think the government 
should be in the health care business.

   That unnerved GOP moderates, especially those in districts won by Democrat 
Hillary Clinton last year, who were worried about tens of thousands of 
constituents losing Medicaid or older voters being forced to pay more. The 
irony of the outsider president is that both the health care debate and Trump's 
proposed budget cuts to domestic programs from Appalachia to the inner cities 
reminded many Americans that government can do some good.

   Pulling the bill on Friday cleared out Washington, giving House Republicans 
a chance to cool off back home this weekend. Still, some seethed while others 
couldn't hide their frustration, hardly a combination for unity and success.

   Michigan Rep. Justin Amash said he and his conservative colleagues wanted a 
full-blown departure from the Obama law, rather than what Speaker Paul Ryan, 
R-Wis., was offering, but were given little voice.

   "From the beginning of the process, I think the way it was set up did not 
bring the disparate parts of the conference together," Amash said.

   New York Rep. Chris Collins, an early Trump backer in the campaign, echoed 
the bill's supporters in chiding opponents for not seizing the opportunity to 
deliver on the perennial campaign promise.

   "I can tell you right now there's bitterness within our conference, it's 
going to take time to heal that," Collins said.

   Ryan pledged that the House would return to its campaign agenda, including 
legislation aimed at strengthening U.S.-Mexican border security, increasing 
spending on the military and public works, while also reining in the budget 
deficit. The GOP has to move beyond the defeat, with midterm elections next 
year and the historic disadvantage the president's party typically faces in 
holding seats.

   "We were a 10-year opposition party where being against things was easy to 
do. You just had to be against it," Ryan told reporters after canceling the 
vote. "And now, in three months' time, we try to go to governing where we 
actually have to get ... people to agree with each other."

   Ryan's toughest opponents were the 30 or so members of the House Freedom 
Caucus, the hardliners widely expected to be marginalized after Trump won, but 
instead a bloc that showed its strength. The GOP owes its majority numbers to 
the brand of conservatism born in opposition to the 2010 health care law, the 
tea partyers and non-conformists like Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz 
of Texas.

   After all that winning, former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley 
Barbour cast the GOP as an expansive party with multiple factions. But the 
former Mississippi governor said Republicans must produce something for the 
electorate because they "have told the American people from Day One" they would.

   For his part, Ryan insisted there is a viable governing path.

   "We will get there," he said Friday. "But we weren't there today."


(KA)

 
 
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