Negotiation Update: In Senate health care defeat, it’s déjà vu all over again

By — on / Conflict Resolution

In negotiation, learning from past mistakes is a critical skill. In our July issue, we detailed errors that Republicans made in their initial attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the House of Representatives. Although the House narrowly passed its American Health Care Act (AHCA) in May, Senate Republicans repeated many of the House’s mistakes when they tried and failed to pass their own version of the bill in July:

  • A one-sided approach. Republicans in both the House and the Senate ruled out the possibility of collaborating with Democrats on an Obamacare replacement. In the process, they limited themselves to a narrow path to victory that required winning over competing factions within their party. “We’re getting nothing done, my friends,” Republican John McCain chided from the Senate floor, criticizing both major parties for refusing to collaborate with each other on health care and other issues.
  • A secretive process. House Speaker Paul Ryan and his staff drafted the AHCA in secret, then released it on March 6 as a fait accompli. Similarly, after the bill moved to the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invited a small number of Republican senators—all of them white men—to work on the redrafting, which they did in utmost secrecy.
  • Unintimidating threats. President Donald Trump reportedly threatened certain House members that he’d fight their reelection efforts if they didn’t vote for the AHCA. Most seemed unfazed by the threat. In a similar manner, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reportedly warned Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski that the Trump administration would not support key projects in her state if she voted against the bill. Murkowski, who oversees the Interior Department’s funding in the Senate, voted against it anyway.

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