The Rules Committee of the House of Representatives met shortly after dawn on Friday to try and set up a process by which Paul Ryan’s tax-cut plan could pass the full House at some point later in the day. On Thursday, after everything fell apart, the president* sent the head counselors at Camp Runamuck down to the Capitol to tell recalcitrant Republicans that what they had before them was his take-it-or-leave-it offer and that, if they chose not to pass it, then 24 million Americans wouldn’t lose their health insurance, get sick, go broke and/or die. The president* is betting that Republicans in Congress don’t want that on their consciences.
So they’re going to attempt another vote today on an Obamacare replacement bill that’s been rewritten so many times the Congressional Budget Office can’t keep up. As I wrote yesterday, Trump tried to get the Freedom Caucus on board by letting them make changes that made the whole thing even worse, but even that failed to close the deal. So, Trump-style, the so-called president told Congress that if they didn’t pass their bill today, they’d never get another chance at it and Obamacare would have to remain on the books.
Such a deal-maker, this guy. James Hohmann wrote,
If you read Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal,” substituting “contractors” for “conservatives,” the president’s ultimatum to House Republicans on health care is not at all surprising. “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off your back,” Trump wrote in the 1987 business classic.
As a businessman, Trump bragged about his ability to drive a hard bargain to win favorable terms and make lots of money. “I also protect myself by being flexible,” he explained. “I never get too attached to one deal or one approach. … I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.”
One theme he kept coming back to is that you’ve got to be willing to walk away or, more precisely, convince the people you’re negotiating with that you are. Trump recalled a 1981 meeting with the attorney general and the head of gaming enforcement for New Jersey in which he threatened to walk away from Atlantic City – despite already making huge investments on the Boardwalk there – if he didn’t get certain concessions.
He described the pitch: “Much as I wanted to build a great casino on the great site I’d assembled, I said, I have a very successful real estate business in New York and I was more than willing to walk away from Atlantic City if the regulatory process proved to be too difficult or too time-consuming. The bottom line, I concluded, was that I didn’t intend to invest any more money – or to begin any construction – until I got a decision one way or the other on my licensing.”
The problem, of course, is that a president has absolutely no authority — or “leverage,” as they say — to stop the House from passing any dadblamed bill it wants to pass. Sure, he could eventually veto it. But if sometime down the road Congress managed to pass an ACA replacement bill that nearly all Republicans and a couple of Democrats actually liked — a long shot, I realize — those same Republicans could do Trump a world of political hurt if he vetoed the thing.
But of course, it’s possible a sufficient number of House Republicans are too stupid to realize all that, and seriously think OMG if we don’t vote yes today Obamacare will be the law of the land forever!
Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, the two political action hubs of the Koch donor network, announced Wednesday night that they had a “seven-figure fund” ready to help Republicans who reject the American Health Care Act.
The fund will supplement an ongoing online campaign that’s thanking lawmakers who’ve promised to oppose the bill, which they say retains too many elements of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“In seven years, we have never wavered in our commitment to a full repeal of this disastrous law,” AFP President Tim Phillips said in a statement. “We want to make certain that lawmakers understand the policy consequences of voting for a law that keeps Obamacare intact. We have a history of following up and holding politicians accountable, but we will also be there to support and thank the champions who stand strong and keep their promise.”
One suspects that wavering congress critters are getting a lot of phone calls today, and not just from their constituents.
Politico is saying the vote today is too close to call. I am making no predictions. If it passes, the Senate is likely to take it apart and rewrite it anyway. And if it fails, that certainly doesn’t mean the danger is over. But failing would make the so-called president look very, very weak.