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What's next for Democrats on health care

(J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Democrats have big decisions ahead of them now that the GOP's health care effort has failed. In the short term, it should be easy for them to unite around an Affordable Care Act stabilization package, like the one Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray will try to negotiate next month.

But the party has yet to answer the question of what comes next. Some strategists expect Democrats will consolidate around some form of single payer by 2020, though others won't concede that as a given. The problem: most people don't think a single payer system has a shot at becoming law anytime soon, and playing to the party's base may ignore real concerns about affordability.

Why this matters: Democrats have a unique opportunity to emerge as the adults in the room after the GOP's repeal and replace debacle. But they could squander it if they blindly defend the ACA without addressing its shortcomings, or if they jump into political arguments over single payer. Voters have been clear about what they want, and so far neither party has offered a real solution.