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Make Washington work better

President Donald Trump greets Speaker of the House

President Donald Trump greets Speaker of the House Paul Ryan as he arrives to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. Credit: EPA /Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool

From 2010 to 2016, the far-right wing of the Republican Party proved it could stop a Democratic president from accomplishing anything of substance. Last week, the far-right wing of the GOP proved it can do the same thing to a Republican president.

That is, unless moderates from both parties put nation over party and band together to move ahead, disarming extremists on either side.

What happened with the Republican health care plan penned by House Speaker Paul Ryan and embraced by President Donald Trump is instructive. It was a terrible bill that seemed to make every shortcoming of President Barack Obama’s flawed Affordable Care Act worse. It would improve nothing, except for the bank balances of millionaires by providing $300 billion in tax cuts. It would have hurt millions of Trump voters and broken many promises he made while campaigning.

But the far-right House Freedom Caucus didn’t oppose the American Health Care Act because it would cut Medicaid enrollments and insurance subsidies to low-income buyers by too much. The caucus opposed it because it didn’t end subsidies entirely or allow plans that don’t cover vital services.

And now with the GOP struggling, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party wants to raise its own radical flag, calling for single-payer health care and a filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. These Democrats can’t win either battle, or win either chamber of Congress on those issues, but they can further erode the environment by trying.

Meantime, Trump and his aides, wounded and confused, are shooting up flares to turn attention from this failure. They’re blaming, alternately, Democrats, Freedom Caucus folks and Ryan. They say they’ll next bring up the nation’s most balkanized issue, tax reform. And they’re pushing a new government-innovation council led by Trump’s untested and inexperienced son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who also is very busy doing his family’s and the nation’s business with China, fixing the Middle East and, probably, testifying about Russian interference in the election.

But now, some Democrats and some Republicans are wondering out loud why they can’t work together. They can.

They need to start with what the nation and both parties want: infrastructure spending. Trump promised $1 trillion. Democratic leaders have advocated the spending to help the nation and the jobs market.

Ryan needs to let bills supported by the majority of the House hit the floor, even if some in the GOP oppose them. He can’t let the hard right stymie him as it did previous Speaker John Boehner, with the threat of a debt-ceiling showdown and a government shutdown looming. Democrats must work with moderate Republicans. Trump needs to put the nation ahead of the moneyed special interests. Why? Because the current pattern did not work for the past six years. And it’s not going to work any better now. — The editorial board