On Tuesday, President Trump told reporters that soon the Republican Party will be known as “the party of health care.” He added for emphasis: “You watch.” What he didn’t indicate is how that will happen, and in that way, the moment was familiar. The president talks big, at one point just before his inauguration promising “insurance for everyone.” Then, he fails to deliver anything remotely close to a plan.

Recall watching congressional Republicans spend the first year of the Trump presidency trying to devise an acceptable replacement for the Affordable Care Act. They failed to come up with the goods.

What the Trump White House did produce this week, via the Justice Department, is a legal brief asking a federal appeals court in Texas to find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional — all of it, from the Medicaid expansion to allowing young adults to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26. This represents a more aggressive stance. Earlier, the administration argued that when Congress eliminated the penalty for failing to buy insurance, it ended just those provisions closely connected to the individual mandate, such as protection for pre-existing conditions.

In December, a federal judge ruled the congressional action voided the whole law. Now the White House has embraced his thinking.

Didn’t the country just conduct an election that seemed to settle this question about the future of the Affordable Care Act? Democrats campaigned heavily and successfully on the act, which has grown more popular the past two years. They especially highlighted preserving adequate coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Republicans felt the pressure, many eventually pledging they would protect such coverage, too, even in severely gerrymandered Ohio, U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce amounting to Exhibit A.

The way is open for the president and fellow Republicans to advance something equivalent or better. Until they do, the act deserves support, and even bipartisan repair work. For Ohio, the Medicaid expansion has improved lives, for instance, in addressing the opioid epidemic. Protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions is smart, decent and responsible. Other provisions have been similarly well received.

The past few days actually have carried an echo of the fall campaign -- with Republicans hustling to profess their commitment, in particular, to those with pre-existing conditions. Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters that if the Affordable Care Act is struck down, as the president wants, “we need to be ready to move immediately to protect those people who have pre-existing illnesses,” adding: “And it’s not just a question of being able to buy insurance — it’s being able to buy it at a reasonable cost.”

Dave Yost, the Ohio attorney general, described the ruling of the federal judge as “magical thinking,” given that Congress said nothing about invalidating the entire act by erasing the individual mandate penalty. News accounts say that William Barr, the U.S. attorney general, and Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, disagree with the White House approach. Include in that camp many Republican lawmakers, starting with Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader.

Here is another wholly unnecessary and unhelpful episode sparked by the president. No question, health care can make for contentious policy discussions. Yet there are some things where a clear consensus has formed, with voters offering confirmation at the polls. Is the president then merely playing to his base by doubling down on his opposition to the Affordable Care Act? Again, it would help if he had a plan for making Republicans “the party of health care.” But he doesn’t. So he’s not only fueling anxiety among those with pre-existing conditions. He has launched on a path that would put millions at risk of losing their health coverage.