Trump hits McConnell: After seven years of repeal promises, why were my ObamaCare expectations “excessive”?
When the man’s right, he’s right.
I made the same point myself. Trump did talk about quickly repealing ObamaCare soon after he was sworn in but Republican voters have been patient and would have continued to be patient, I think, if McConnell had followed regular order. They’ve waited seven years; they’ll wait another 12 months if they think progress is being made. The problem with the repeal effort this year wasn’t that it was too slow, it’s that it was half-assed. Congressional Republicans didn’t have a bill ready to go when Trump took office and were hamstrung trying to find consensus between conservatives who wanted smaller government (i.e. less Medicaid spending) and moderates worried about the poor losing coverage (i.e. more Medicaid spending). There is a Republican out there who’s successfully blended a conservative pitch on some issues with a more populist pitch aimed at the working class on others, who might have helped the party square this circle.
But that guy hasn’t had much to say.
Left to their own devices, without guidance from Trump in terms of a strong statement of health-care policy preferences, Ryan and McConnell could have addressed repeal the way Democrats built ObamaCare in 2009, over a span of months with hearings and amendments. Instead they set out from the start to ram something through — even in the House, where the minority was powerless to stop Republicans from passing whatever they wanted. As early as March 3, reports circulated that Ryan planned to bring a leadership-written bill to the floor before the end of the month and dare conservatives to vote no on it in the name of passing something as quickly as possible. Six weeks into Trump’s presidency, the Speaker was already in gut-check mode on getting health-care reform passed.
The entire exercise since day one has seemed less like an opportunity that the GOP relished having than an obligation they couldn’t wait to be rid of before moving on to subjects they cared more about. I was only half-joking when I once called their bill The Pass Whatever And Get To Tax Reform Act Of 2017. By the end, the Senate was reduced to voting on a repeal bill written the day of the vote that would have left virtually all of ObamaCare intact except the mandate, depriving the program of its chief funding mechanism and risking a death spiral in the remaining O-Care exchanges if it became law. It was inane as policy but made perfect sense on “pass whatever” grounds. That’s why it’s so hard to knock Trump for having “excessive” expectations. Even if his concept of the timeline was unrealistic, the GOP failed to meet any expectations voters had of them on ObamaCare. The process was a fiasco. And for once, it’s not all Trump’s fault.
Don’t miss the forest for the trees here, though. This isn’t just about ObamaCare. Increasingly it looks like Trump’s going to war with his own congressional caucuses before the midterms. He’s been dogging McConnell for months to get rid of the filibuster even though that wouldn’t have saved him on the Senate ObamaCare vote. Now McConnell has fired back and Trump is taking advantage. Ed noted Dan Scavino’s attack on McConnell earlier but Hannity also went after McConnell repeatedly last night, both on social media and on his show:
Apparently he made this point again on the radio this afternoon. What the strategy is here beyond simple blame-shifting for legislative stasis during Trump’s presidency, I’m not sure. Reminding Republican voters that their Senate leadership is garbage seems like a suboptimal way of getting those voters excited to elect more Republican senators next year. And making an enemy of McConnell feels like a bad idea given both his power over the impeachment process if that ever makes it to the Senate and the fact that Senate Republicans have been swinging back at the president more freely lately. Fighting with the Senate makes no sense for the White House, as far as I can figure. But then, fighting with the White House doesn’t make much sense for McConnell either and there he was yesterday grumbling about Trump’s “excessive expectations.” McConnell needs Trump fans to turn out next fall, even if the pool of Trump fans is dwindling by the day. How does squabbling with the White House make that more likely?
Exit question: If Trumpworld is peeved at McConnell, why on earth did the president endorse his preferred candidate in the Alabama Senate primary, Luther Strange? Strange’s opponent, Mo Brooks, can’t figure it out either.