Yesterday’s rumor becomes today’s fact. After parrying a few questions about Devin Nuñes and the House Intelligence Committee probe of Russian influence in the previous election, House Speaker Paul Ryan tells CBS This Morning‘s Norah O’Donnell that the American Health Care Act is not dead yet, or even mostly dead. Emphasizing that “90% of our members are for this bill,” Ryan says that House leadership and the Trump administration are trying to put the bill in position to pass:
“Well, it hasn’t survived yet. What happened is, we are going through, what I would call, a very painful growing pain. I’d like to see the growth at the end of that pain, which is we had been an opposition party for 10 years,” Ryan said. “And I’ve been long saying, if we’re going to be successful, deliver for the American people, improve people’s lives, we’ve got to become a proposition governing party. … About 90 percent of our members are for this bill. We’re not going to give up after seven years of dealing with this, after running on a plan all of last year, translating that plan into legislation, which is what this is.”
So what’s the Plan B?
“Plan B is we keep talking to each other and figure out how we get to yes, and how we get this bill passed,” Ryan said.
“So you’re not changing the policy, you’re just putting more pressure?” O’Donnell asked.
“No, we’re listening to people. If we can make improvements to this bill, all the better. So if improvements can be made to this legislation that get people to yes, that’s great,” Ryan said.
This jibes with what Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) told me yesterday while I was guest hosting on Relevant Radio. Rooney surprised me with the news that Republican leadership was still working the vote on the AHCA, and Rooney expressed considerable frustration with the situation. (Rooney supports the AHCA as a first step.)
Contra the White House, Ryan insists that this bill has to come first before tax reform, as it contributes mightily to the end outcomes both he and the Trump administration want to achieve with the latter. One major problem, Ryan notes, is that only the House has a tax reform plan, so they need to wait to coordinate efforts with the Senate and Trump administration officials to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Also contra the White House, Ryan’s not terribly interested in getting help from Democrats on health care reform, at least not at this stage. Repeal has to come first, and Democrats simply will not cooperate with that under any circumstances.
O’Donnell wonders how Republicans could have booted repeal despite having seven years to prepare for it. Ryan’s explanation of “growing pains” hardly suffices as an explanation, given that the GOP has controlled the House for six years and the Senate for two prior to now. Nor does the news that tax reform — a key agenda item for the GOP for years and a major issue for Donald Trump during the campaign — is still largely on the drawing board. Republicans on Capitol Hill have not exactly demonstrated a readiness to govern, and that’s going to be a very big problem, as I wrote in my column for The Week:
The new age of Republican governance only began a little more than two months ago with the launch of the 115th Congress and the inauguration of President Trump. After one of the most unusual presidential campaigns in American history, many wondered what the next few years in Washington would look like. Could Trump find sufficient discipline to govern? Would it fall to Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to run policy for the next four years?
Instead, the issue appears to be reversed. While the White House hit a few road bumps on messaging and comportment, their policy work has been focused on the campaign promises Trump made — at least as far as can be accomplished through executive action. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Trump’s policies, it’s clear that he intended to hit the ground running and make changes to the direction of government.
The problem in the early weeks of GOP control of Washington has come from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The Republican House of Representatives has failed spectacularly in its first major effort — their seven-year promise to repeal ObamaCare. Not only did the failure to resolve internal differences on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) prompt questions about Republican capacity for governance, the way it failed made those questions even more pressing. …
Instead, the GOP effort collapsed — and with it, part of their governing credibility. The latter doesn’t just result from the aborted vote on AHCA, but the inability to have the Republican agenda ready on Day One. Glenn Reynolds rightly wondered in the aftermath why Republican leadership on Capitol Hill “didn’t have bills lined up like airplanes on the runway.” They certainly had enough advance notice on ObamaCare to prepare for the potential opportunity. Why were they so unprepared?
We still don’t have an answer to that question, but we have yet another example of the problem. If that’s growing pains, then the GOP had better get itself past adolescence in a heck of a hurry. And by the way, Donald Trump is still not impressed, either:
The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017