Most whip counts I saw last night had the range of no votes on the bill between 25 and 27. The AP’s latest whip count this afternoon had … 30 no’s. They’re moving in the wrong direction.
Time to regroup:
BREAKING: US House is no longer expected to vote on new GOP health care bill today, GOP leadership source tells @NBCNightlyNews.
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) March 23, 2017
Ryan’s team is putting on a brave face, insisting that a vote might still happen tomorrow, but McConnell told his own caucus today that he’s not expecting them to pull it together and get something on the floor until Monday. House Republicans are meeting tonight at 7 p.m. to see if anything can be salvaged or if it’s time to stop the bleeding and go back to square one. As I write this at shortly before 4 p.m. ET, by the way, Trump is apparently telling an audience that the vote tonight will be very close. It looks like he … doesn’t know yet that it’s been canceled.
I think the Freedom Caucus is at a perilous moment now. They’ve notched a political win by flexing their muscle and proving that they won’t rubber-stamp a bill even if the president and the Speaker regard it as must-pass. They hung together and now they’re a fact of political life that Trump must contend with. The wrinkle is that, because Trump himself isn’t ideologically conservative, there’s nothing stopping him from concluding from this fiasco that he’s better off not dealing with conservatives at all anymore. He’s a populist centrist. He might as well target the caucus’s moderates on future initiatives and see what, if anything, Pelosi would need in order to make her free some of her own moderates to vote with Trump if they so desire. (Given the near certainty of conservative opposition to his infrastructure program, he’s probably going to need to do that anyway.) He’s stuck dealing with Mark Meadows and company on health care because Democrats won’t vote for an ObamaCare replacement under any circumstances, but I wonder if the Freedom Caucus’s “victory” today will be the last one they notch under Trump.
As for the Trump/Ryan bill, the plan now will probably be to free each chamber to pass anything that they can pass and then hope the momentum from that will lead to a compromise in a conference committee. If the House bill needs to be ultra-conservative to get through the House, fine; if it needs to be moderate and more populist to get through the Senate, fine — although how McConnell will get to 51 votes in that case, with Lee, Paul, and Cruz all likely voting no, I’m not sure. Long story short, the White House is in trouble. Here’s Spicer around two hours ago insisting that there’s no back-up plan if the bill doesn’t pass tonight because the bill will pass tonight. Oh well.
Q: Is there a backup plan if the health bill doesn’t pass tonight?
Spicer: “No. It’s gonna pass. So that’s it.” pic.twitter.com/fUo8BBnBPU
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 23, 2017
Update: Spotted on Twitter, by the way:
— Pradheep J. Shanker (@Neoavatara) March 23, 2017