Repeal, Replace and Republican rhetoric

Aside from ‘building a wall’, Trump’s promises to repeal and replace Obamacare have encountered problems from the very beginning. For A Level students, this is a ‘catch-all’ example that covers:

  • the powers (or not) of the President (Unit 4 – President)
  • the legislative process in Congress, power (or not) of congressional leaders, the importance (or not) of parties and party unity, the lack of party discipline (Unit 4 – Congress)
  • the importance of the US Constitution as a help/hindrance to US government (Unit 4 – Constitution)
  • the ‘broad church’ nature of US parties and the resulting problem of factions (Unit 3 parties)
  • the nature of the US election system meaning that Congressmen are not bound to follow the President (Unit 3 elections)
  • the vastness of the US federal government – now Obamacare is in place, the inability to just remove it wholesale (Unit 4 federalism)
  • the role and power of interest groups with disability protesters being removed form Congress as well as large and important interest groups opposing the bill (see here) (unit 3 – interest groups)


Click here for the Repeal/Replace timeline from The HillI highly recommend this article for A Level students!

Understanding how one example can cut across so much of the course that you study is crucial – knowing one example in good detail and being able to use it widely is more analytical (and impressive!) than knowing lots of names and dates but no detail. Equally, it means ultimately you have to remember less for the exams!

So, what went on in this story?

Throughout 2017, both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (leaders of the House and Senate Republicans respectively) have tried, and failed, to introduce such legislation and get their party to rally behind it. Speaker Ryan introduced, and pulled his bill in March 2017 (showing both the power and weakness of the role simultaneously). While a revised version did pass the House in April (revised by the Freedom Caucus, highlighting the power of factions), the Senate would not pass it, showing how the division of power in the US government can cause slowness, and ultimately gridlock.

The summer has then been dominated by the Senate response – the introduction, postponement and withdrawal of bills based on whether Mitch McConnell think he has the votes or not. The Graham-Cassidy Bill was introduced as a last ditch attempt to find a way to repeal and replace Obamacare at the beginning of September. This week however, enough Republicans have made it clear they will not support the bill, effectively killing it by making it not worthwhile holding a vote on. This is useful when thinking about the separate mandate congressmen hold (which means party discipline is weak), the ‘broad church’ ideology of parties meaning they cannot be relied upon to vote the same way and also when considering the differences between the House and the Senate.

Knowing this example well has huge potential for those students aiming for the very top grades!

Click here for the Politico article about the Graham-Cassidy Bill

Click here for the Time piece about the protesters in Congress