Pat Toomey on why the GOP didn't have a health-care plan ready: We didn't think Trump would win

Skip to 16:20 of the clip below for the key bit, which WaPo aptly describes as “remarkable.” This explanation, that Senate Republicans were simply caught off-guard by Trump’s victory, would be more tolerable if not for the fact that (1) they had seven years to reach a rough consensus of what Republican health-care reform should look like, (2) the panicked solution they appear to be settling on is basically ObamaCare minus lots of Medicaid spending, and (3) a serious, capable political party should always plan for the not-very-unlikely contingency that it might win. As surprising as Trump’s victory was, he woke up on Election Day with a roughly three in 10 chance of victory and had had a one in five chance for much of the general election campaign. At any moment Hillary’s emails could have leaked, she could have had a health crisis, there could have been a terrorist attack driving voters towards a strongman leader, and so on. The fact that the GOP was caught flat-footed on the issue around which they’ve organized their last four national campaigns is political malpractice. Pair that with Trump’s obsession with the media and you have a portrait of an opposition party thrust suddenly into a role of responsibility with seemingly not the faintest idea of what to do with its power.

I mean, really. Why is a supposedly influential senator in the majority tweeting about a health-care plan proposed by a former candidate from the other party who couldn’t get out of the primaries?

Rubio knows what’s coming in a few years after the GOP screws this up.

It’s not just senators who were caught off-guard by Trump’s win and whose lack of preparation is costing the party now either. More WaPo:

That the GOP didn’t think they would take back the White House has informed other policy debates this year. A massive overhaul of the tax code, a Holy Grail of policy for Ryan, remains completely at loggerheads because the speaker’s preference for a controversial tax on imported goods was never litigated within the party last year, ahead of the election.

Similarly, Trump’s call for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan is still sitting in neutral because congressional Republicans, long averse to big spending projects, never embraced it or even turned their attention its way.

Perhaps nowhere did the surprise factor of Trump’s victory show its impact more than in the effort to fill top jobs inside the administration.

Everyone was surprised, including the transition team, so no one was ready to roll. Maybe some of those holes could have been filled if the president himself was popular, had a strong policy vision, and enjoyed a command of detail sufficient to steer the caucuses in the House and Senate in his direction. But hey.

Exit question: Imagine for a moment that Cruz had bested Trump in the primaries and gone on to upset Hillary. Does anyone think congressional Republicans would have gotten cracking during the campaign on the great repeal-and-replace effort? I think they would have expected, and would have received, more guidance from the White House than they’ve experienced under Trump, making the health-care effort more a matter of realizing Cruz’s vision than concocting their own plan on the fly. But the idea that Susan Collins and Rob Portman would have found it easier to agree now with Rand Paul and Mike Lee on basic matters like health-care spending? That’s hard to believe. Maybe if Cruz had won a shocking landslide victory, indicating a mandate for Reaganism, moderate Republicans might have bent towards the right on spending. Instead we got the schizophrenic Trump, who ran on a blend of bigger-government nationalism in some ways (infrastructure, protecting entitlements) and smaller-government conservatism (deregulation, tax reform) in others. That schizophrenia, leaving each wing of the party with a claim that their priorities should steer the White House, may be more responsible for the current stalemate than lack of preparation for Trump’s upset.