Open thread: Trump stumps for House GOP health-care bill in Rand Paul's backyard

The show begins at 7:30 p.m. ET, carried live on the cable-news network of your choice. Tonight’s rally in Louisville would have been newsy under any circumstances, with Trump showing up in a top Republican critic’s home state to try to sell a bill that his own base isn’t crazy about. But Comey’s testimony this morning and Trump’s irritated “prebuttal” of it on Twitter makes it a must-see. Is he going to go after the Bureau generally or Comey personally? If he does, how much will that headline step on his health-care message, just as the intelligence hearing ended up stepping on Neil Gorsuch’s formal introduction to the United States? Will Trump threaten to fire Comey — or to primary any Republicans who end up voting against the House bill? There’s no telling what “is this really happening?” news might emerge at a live event when the president’s pissed off and free to riff.

Two thoughts to get you ready for tonight’s sales pitch. One: Which Democratic senator recently said this to the NYT?

“The folks who Hillary Clinton called the ‘deplorables’ are actually those who want better coverage, who we’d be hurting if we don’t change this bill,” Mr. [X] said, noting that Mr. Trump promised “he’d give them better care.”…

“There’s a widespread recognition that the federal government, Congress, has created the right for every American to have health care,” he said, warning that to throw people off their insurance or make coverage unaffordable would only shift costs back to taxpayers by burdening emergency rooms. “If you want to be fiscally responsible, then coverage is better than no coverage.”

Chuck Schumer? Nah. Trick question, of course: That’s Republican Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a physician by trade, who’s been pushing a bill with Susan Collins that would let states keep their ObamaCare exchanges in place if they prefer. He’s not claiming that there is or should be a right to health care, please note, he’s hypothesizing that most Americans feel that way post-ObamaCare. But if he’s right, that matters a lot to the viability of the House bill and the odds of success for Trump’s pitch tonight. How many House Republicans share Cassidy’s view that, as a matter of basic retail politics, the GOP replacement bill needs to do at least as much as ObamaCare did to guarantee coverage, especially for the poor, rather than promise more choices for consumers? For that matter, does Trump himself share Cassidy’s view? He promised “insurance for everybody” in an interview a few days before the inauguration. CBO estimated last week that 24 million would lose insurance under the House bill over the next 10 years, some because they’ll voluntarily drop their plans once the mandate is eliminated but some because they might not be able to afford coverage under the GOP’s less lavish tax-credits scheme to help consumers with premiums. That’s anathema to the Cassidy view.

Which brings us to point two. Watch below as Paul Ryan gets grilled by Chris Wallace about how badly people on the cusp of Medicare eligibility stand to suffer under the GOP plan. Ryan’s pitch initially to the GOP caucus was that the bill was a “take it or leave it” proposition. His answer to Wallace, however, is that they’re looking at changes now to make the tax credits for older people more generous. I wonder who was the impetus for that. Was it moderates in the House or was it Trump himself, wanting a more populist bill to neutralize some of the bad press from CBO? Trump vowed to Tucker Carlson last week that if the bill doesn’t “take care of our people,” he won’t sign it. Ryan’s concession yesterday was a step in that direction. We’ll see if Trump demands more tonight.

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