I’m honestly surprised. The party has every incentive to give Trump a big, momentum-building victory on health care to launch his presidency. Only a truly poisonous bill, with major blowback potential in 2018, could have deterred them.
Never underestimate the GOP’s ability to disappoint!
House Speaker Paul Ryan is at the White House to brief President Donald Trump on the GOP health care bill, and it is not to deliver good news, a Republican source tells CNN.
Efforts on Capitol Hill to sway members are ongoing, but things aren’t heading in the right direction.
“Not good. Not good at all,” the source said.
Ryan is showing Trump the numbers, and asking what he wants the speaker to do because the votes aren’t there, a GOP source said.
Trump could tell Ryan that he wants a floor vote anyway, to force disloyal Republicans to formally declare their disloyalty. (Steve Bannon is reportedly urging him to keep a “sh*t list” of GOPers who opposed him, as if Donald J. Trump needs that advice.) But that would be stupid. Holding a vote on a bill that’s doomed to fail would leave House Republicans stuck between pissing Trump off by voting no and pissing voters off by voting yes. The obvious move to protect the party is to pull the bill and not force them to choose. A floor vote wouldn’t even make sense from Trump’s perspective: If the bill fails dismally, as seems increasingly likely, it’ll be portrayed in the media as an on-the-record revolt by congressional Republicans against his authority. His reputation as some sort of master negotiator is going to take a hit no matter what happens, but why demand a roll call so that the media can gleefully count every last “no”?
And yet, Trump being Trump, he may insist upon it anyway:
— Major Garrett (@MajorCBS) March 24, 2017
“What leadership keenly understands is that the bottom falls out on a vote like this. It’s not like Trump will get a clear read on who is with him and who’s against,” writes Jonathan Swan at Axios. Indeed — there’s no reason to vote yes on an unpopular bill that appears doomed, even if you support it on the merits, in which case I’m not sure how Trump will separate his true “enemies” in the party from the merely opportunistic no votes. The latest bad news as of 1:20 ET is that Rep. Barbara Comstock, normally a reliable Republican vote, has declared she’s a no on the bill as well. And if you believe Louie Gohmert, there may well be more no votes among moderates in the caucus than there are among conservatives, raising the prospect of the bill crashing and burning in a landslide if a vote is held.
Which creates an interesting scenario: What does Ryan do if Trump “orders” him to hold a floor vote, knowing the votes aren’t there? Ryan doesn’t work for him, of course. He could protect his caucus from a tough, pointless vote by defying Trump and yanking the bill. But if he does that, Trump and Bannon will be even more inclined to blame him for the bill’s failure than they already are. And that could move him towards the exit as Speaker.
While we wait for news, here’s Lindsey Graham moving to Plan B: Doing nothing and letting ObamaCare collapse. Imagine how popular that’ll be — for both parties.
Update: The Upshot is tracking whip counts of Republican no votes being compiled by seven different news organizations. Six of the seven have no fewer than 32 no’s on record. Ryan can only afford 22.
Update: Did Ryan cave to Trump after all? Spicer just said at today’s briefing that there’ll be a vote at 3:30.
Update: A White House official tells WaPo, “We want to force the vote.”
Update: Like I said, stupid and destructive to the party:
"We want the vote," senior administration official says. "If they want to go against the president, they should do it on live TV."
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 24, 2017
Update: Your thought for the day:
GOP aide on CapHill: "I'm starting to think that while we're pretty good at winning elections, we're not great at the whole governing thing"
— Alex Roarty (@Alex_Roarty) March 24, 2017