The New York Times engaged in some serious labeling overload (and a bit of post-mortem grave-dancing over the House Freedom Caucus) in the run-up and aftermath of the failure of Republicans in Congress to pass a bill repealing and replacing Obamacare.
Thursday’s off-lead story by Jennifer Steinhauer, “G.O.P. Facing Painful Choices On Health Bill – Alienate Its Voters or Undercut Trump,” featured six conservative labels and zero liberal ones, plus a “right” and a “left.”
Mr. Trump met with a group of the most conservative House members at the White House on Wednesday, and Republican leaders are depending on him to finish the job. Indeed, this week many Republicans have begun to acquiesce to his and the House leadership’s desires, accepting that the bill, however flawed, is the best they are going to get.
Other more moderate members expressed opposite objections. “Under the current proposal, many South Jersey residents would be left with financial hardship or without the coverage they now receive,” said Representative Frank A. LoBiondo, Republican of New Jersey. “Our seniors on Medicare already struggle to make each dollar stretch.”
Some Republican leaders and those charged with drumming up votes suspect that some of the more conservative members are simply trying to force Mr. Ryan to cancel a vote on the bill so they do not have to go on record against Mr. Trump. But moderates may feel the pressure of voters: Large protests against the bill are planned for Thursday.
Steinhauer returned to the front page Saturday after the vote failure with the hostile, “Unbending Faction Deals Blow To Its own Party as Bill Falters.” It featured ten “conservative” labels and a “far right” and “an already contentious bill further and further to the right...” No “liberal” or “left” labels cluttered the narrative. And a nasty online headline no doubt brought chortles to the smug liberals who read the Times: “Republicans Land a Punch on Health Care, to Their Own Face.”
At the end of the long day, the alliance of conservative ideologues who once shut down the government over President Barack Obama’s health care law could not find the will to repeal it.
Since the Tea Party wave of 2010 that swept House Republicans into power, a raucous, intransigent and loosely aligned group of lawmakers known as the Freedom Caucus -- most from heavily Republican districts -- has often landed a punch to its own party’s face.
Friday’s defeat of the Republican leadership’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a return to form, handing an immense defeat to President Trump and embarrassing Speaker Paul D. Ryan in his own House. It also challenged the veracity of their long-held claims that a Republican president was all they needed to get big things accomplished.
But the Freedom Caucus has never been about compromise. In 2011, it picked a huge, costly fight over Planned Parenthood. In 2013, it orchestrated a government shutdown over funding for the health care law. Then, in its most striking move, it deposed Mr. Boehner in 2015. The common thread: It has continuously been an adversary of legislation itself.
But after years of opposing power-- both in the White House, which was occupied by a Democrat, and in the leadership of their own party -- the conservatives were offered a chance to negotiate directly with the president and his budget director, a former Freedom Caucus member, over the bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. The members pushed and pushed Mr. Trump to the far right edges of policy, just as they have done for years on other bills. But they still could not get to “yes,” and therefore became part owners of the expansive health law they were trying to undo.
The rampant hostility to the Freedom Caucus continued without respite.
Indeed, members of the Freedom Caucus -- which is supported by outside conservative groups -- have often claimed the mantle of pure conservatism, but their tactics have been seen by many in their party as uniformly counterproductive.
Time after time, they undermined Republican leaders’ efforts to secure wins for the conservative cause by overreaching and demanding the impossible.
Mr. Ryan and Mr. Trump offered up a cheerful patina on what many in Washington viewed as an unmitigated failure, one brought on by a group that had brought down the speaker, shuttered the government and needlessly delayed previous legislation with no significant accomplishments to call its own.
Also on Thursday, Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan, “Leaders’ Appeals Fail to Sway House Conservatives on Health Care Measure” employed the “conservative” label seven times in the first 10 paragraphs.