The Importance of Timing in Politics

Russell Berman makes an interesting point in The Atlantic:  How Democrats Gave the GOP One More Chance to Repeal Obamacare.

the agreement that “Chuck and Nancy” reached with Trump may end up backfiring on Democrats in another way: It freed up time for Republicans to take one last stab at dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

The House and Senate entered September facing a series of deadlines at the end of the month, most significantly the expiration of government funding on the 30th and a possible debt default at around the same date. Congress being Congress, most in Washington expected the month’s final week to be consumed by the usual fiscal brinksmanship, with a last-minute deal passing the House and Senate in the closing days. But the Democrats struck their deal with Trump surprisingly early, and their willingness to attach the spending and debt measures to a package of Hurricane Harvey aid cleared the congressional calendar for the end of the month.

Republicans had faced a September 30 deadline of their own to pass a health-care bill through the Senate using the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process.

And this is the basic answer to the question as to why ACA repeal is back on the agenda after having seemingly died at John McCain’s hand weeks ago.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. An Interested Party says:

    Looking at this strictly from a raw political angle, do Republicans realize what a gift they will be giving Democrats if they pass this monstrosity? Is it worth this much just to give tax cuts to rich people…

  2. mike shupp says:

    AIP —

    The various plans the states might concoct for this version of Trumpcare won’t take effect until 2020 at the earliest, (“27 months after the President signs the legislation”) so there’s not going to be much screaming from people losing their health care until after the presidential election. Isn’t that nice?

    And I expect Republican politicians to look very sad and solemn when reporters inform them of complaints, to explain very carefully that there are defects in Obamacare which are impeding the transition to the newer and better health care plans, that intransigent Democrats refused to cooperate to make obvious necessary improvements, but that Republicans state legislators are cure to iron out any problems as the states gain experience with the new system– in 2021 say or 2022 or 2023 or …. Count on the reporters to nod sagely as they copy this down.

  3. B. R. Bong says:

    Wait…. Are you saying that The Big Outage Fool played Chuck and Nancy?!

  4. B. R. Bong says:

    Big Orange.

  5. Not the IT Dept. says:

    No, the Big Outage did not play anyone (I like that term). I doubt if he even knew about the September 30 deadline.

    Let’s be clear: the people responsible are Senate and Congressional Republicans and NO ONE ELSE.

  6. @B. R. Bong: I don’t think that there was any plan here–just a situation in which one action led to another.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Nature abhors a vacuum.

  8. wr says:

    @mike shupp: “The various plans the states might concoct for this version of Trumpcare won’t take effect until 2020 at the earliest,”

    That’s no doubt the thinking here. But if it passes, premiums are going to skyrocket immediately, because insurance companies will be staring into an incredibly uncertain future, and they don’t like that.

    And the Rs can squawk “but… Obama!” all they want, but there’s going to be a straight line from passage of their horrible bill to unaffordable insurance. Sure, the die-hard Trumpies will continue to blame that horrible Negro, but everyone with more than two brain cells is going to be looking for revenge on those who did this.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    To be clear, it’s not that Chuck and Nancy charmed or conned Trump, nor that Trump embraced bipartisanship. The Rs had painted themselves into a corner. Shutting down the government and defaulting on debt payments would be catastrophic. Bad for the country, but more importantly, to them, would piss off their establishment sponsors and hit Trump’s popularity. And the Freedom (sic) Caucus wouldn’t vote to prevent it. A way out had to be found and Nancy and Chuck didn’t bar the door.

  10. @gVOR08: Indeed–I don’t think there was anything purposeful about any of this, but it does show how timing matters, regardless.

  11. MBunge says:

    It would be nice is this “sometimes stuff just happens” attitude would apply in other circumstances, not just where thinking the opposite makes Trump look bad.

    And also, let’s not be rewriting history just yet.

    Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan WANTED a debt ceiling showdown now. They WANTED it because they thought they could get the can kicked down the road until after the 2018 election. Trump went against their wishes to cut a deal with the Democrats. You can certainly criticize it or praise it but to suggest that it was some sort of coordinated GOP scheme is to lose touch with reality.


  12. Mister Bluster says:

    You mean like this:

    Grab them by the pussy!

    “sometimes stuff just happens”

  13. mike shupp says:


    “premiums are going to skyrocket immediately, because insurance companies will be ,,,”

    Well, that’s just terrible, isn’t it? But it’s hardly our fault as Republicans, since New Improved TRUMPCARE hasn’t even gone into effect yet. No, this just shows there are basic weaknesses in Obamacare, which have been harming people all along, and which can’t be repaired until we totally replace this impractical African socialism and make Americans whole again.

    See how it’s done?.

  14. Matt says:

    @mike shupp: Yes I see how you completely missed what WR said and then headed straight into a dog whistle with “African socialism”.

  15. wr says:

    @mike shupp: I know how it’s done. But even for die hard Trumpies, when your party controls every lever of government and has promised to fix health insurance for you, and as soon as they pass their bill your premiums skyrocket, you stop blaming the black guy. I know there are some Rs who are willing to gamble they can pull this off one last time… but it will not work.

  16. mike shupp says:


    I’d like to believe you’re right, but — sorry! — I don’t. My thought instead is that once there are two balls up in the political air, ACA and whatever we call Trumpcare, that except for a handful of people paying close attention to politics, most Americans are going to find it difficult to understand the differences, and will be guided by the politicians they trust. Think of all those Kentucky residents who are so grateful to Mitch McConnell because they get their health care from something decent like Kynect rather than that horrible Obamacare other states have!

    Look, Republicans were still blaming FDR for his awful laws twenty years after the man was buried, and Barak Obama is still alive. Why should Republicans ever give up telling the voters how evil his healthcare plan was, AND that he was a Kenyan socialist to boot?

    I mean …. you know you’re going to be hearing about Hillary’s emails for the rest of your life? Don’t you?