Huh: Reince Priebus, Gary Cohn expecting House to vote on health care this week

Has anyone informed Paul Ryan that the White House has these expectations? Because, as of Friday, he seemed to be nowhere near the number of votes he’d need from centrist Republicans to push the bill through.

Wouldn’t be the first time recently that Team Trump has shocked Ryan by demanding a vote he was unprepared to take, though:

When White House officials demanded the week before that a health care vote take place by the 100-day mark, Speaker Paul Ryan, who was traveling in Europe, was taken aback. The leader of the House of Representatives wasn’t in on the plan, had no desire to vote this week and feared it wasn’t even possible. No one even knew what the bill would say because the language had not been written.

“It was totally insane,” one senior GOP aide said. “It made no sense. There was no reason to say a vote was happening this week.”

Priebus was asked yesterday whether he’s counting on a House vote this week and answered, “I think so. … I think it will happen this week,” crowing that if it passes the House and Senate it “will be one of the fastest pieces of signature legislation to go through for a president since Roosevelt.” Why he would say that, knowing that there’s zero chance the bill will pass the Senate in its current form even if it somehow passes the House, I don’t know. Maybe the White House is playing its own game of hot potato with Congress now, knowing it’s unlikely that anything can pass and shifting into blame mode in order to protect Trump. The higher Priebus raises public expectations that a vote is coming soon, the more Republican voters will blame Ryan if/when it doesn’t happen. I think Gary Cohn was playing the same game this morning when he told CBS he foresees a vote soon too:

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn predicted Monday that the House would pass its bill to partially repeal and replace Obamacare this week.

“I think we do,” Cohn said on CBS when asked if the votes were there.

“This is going to be a great week,” he said. “We’re going to get healthcare down to the floor of the House. We’re convinced we’ve got the votes, and we’re going to keep moving on with our agenda.”

Good luck, Paul! Don’t let us down.

An alternate possibility: Maybe we’re back to where we were in the days before the original GOP health-care bill imploded, when the House leadership was planning to call the Freedom Caucus’s bluff by putting the bill on the floor and daring them to vote no, knowing they’d then be accused of having saved ObamaCare by blocking its replacement. The Freedom Caucus (or at least some members) are onboard with the new bill; it’s the moderates who are iffy, but maybe Trump, Cohn, Priebus, Ryan or some combination thereof think the moderates will cave if they’re forced to declare their opposition publicly in a roll call. I can’t believe Ryan would go along with that knowing how much peril a floor vote would create for his most vulnerable members, with purple-district GOPers forced to either alienate Republicans by voting no or alienate everyone else by voting yes, but maybe he sees this as his last chance to move the hot potato over to the Senate. And if the vote fails, at least the White House probably won’t bug him to hold another vote soon. If the bill is destined to crash and burn, better that it happen ASAP so that it’s a distant memory by the time the midterms roll around.

Here’s Trump talking health care yesterday on “Face the Nation.” There’s news here — maybe — at around 3:25 when John Dickerson reminds him that the latest bill makes covering preexisting conditions “optional” for the states and Trump replies that that’s being fixed to make it “permanent.” It’s hard to decipher what that means since Dickerson misstates what the bill says and lord only knows how well Trump himself knows the details. The current bill would let states get a waiver from ObamaCare’s “community rating” regulations, which means insurers could charge people with preexisting conditions much, much higher premiums. Technically those people would still have coverage, as the state would be required to set up a high-risk pool for them in lieu of the ObamaCare regs (Trump mentions “pools” here), but whether they could actually afford their coverage in the pool is another question. Trump seems to be talking about “guaranteed issue” for the very sick, which will remain mandatory, whereas Dickerson seems to be talking about “community rating,” which will not. What the House bill will end up mandating, only Ryan and his team know right now.