Like Paul Ryan said, “It’s not my bill. It’s our bill.”
The newsy part comes when he says that he’s managed to flip members of the Republican Study Committee from “no” or “maybe” to “yes.” That’s a big deal in lining up conservative support; per the Examiner, Trump enticed them with an optional block grant for Medicaid and incentives that might get more states to impose a work requirement for Medicaid eligibility. For two solid weeks now, allegedly with the support of Steve Bannon, Trump has been trying to bring House conservatives into the fold after they were supposedly cut out of the process by Ryan and his leadership team. It’s a courtship by the White House, and it’s working.
But … it’s only working up to a point:
The House Freedom Caucus still opposes the GOP replacement bill in its current form.
— House Freedom Caucus (@freedomcaucus) March 17, 2017
The Freedom Caucus tweeted that around the time that the clip above started circulating, as if to remind the world that not every conservative in the House is onboard with the bill yet. But never mind them. “There’s … a particularly strong belief among House GOP leaders that if Trump puts his full force behind the legislation, these Freedom Caucus members will buckle,” WaPo notes, undoubtedly correctly. It’s hard for a congressman from a deep-red district to pick a fight with Trump, especially if you’re fighting on anti-populist terrain by demanding steeper cuts to Medicaid or fewer tax credits to help the lower class to buy insurance. Trump can go full metal populist and bully them into submission. The harder fight is with moderates from more purple districts, who have less to fear from being attacked by Trump and who can claim the populist high ground by attacking him right back for pushing a bill that damages his own base. I’m a broken record on this topic, but when does the White House start wooing moderate Republicans, without whose support the bill is doomed?
[A]ccording to an analysis by the FiveThirtyEight blog, there are roughly 60 Republicans who are either members of the mainstream Tuesday Group or sit in districts that leaned toward Hillary Clinton in the presidential election…
These Republicans saw the Congressional Budget Office estimate of 24 million more uninsured from Ryan’s legislation and gasped. They know their constituents might be frustrated with Obamacare, but they tend to be more diverse and from the suburban professional ranks, unwilling to throw people off insurance with no substitute…
Many of these wavering Republicans come from states that adopted the expanded Medicaid rolls the ACA allowed, a provision that would be phased out under the current Ryan proposal.
Ryan did meet with members of the centrist “Tuesday Group” yesterday but it’s unclear what, if anything, has been added to the bill to entice moderates as it moves right on Medicaid. A source told CNN that “making tax credits more generous based on income level for older Americans” has been mentioned in whip meetings, but nothing’s firm yet. And the more generous the tax credits get, the more likely it is that nervous conservatives will bail out.
At the Journal today, Reaganite Peggy Noonan joins the chorus on the right who are nudging Trump to go in a more populist direction. Forget the conservatives, she says. Reach out to Democrats and put together a bipartisan centrist bill that protects Medicaid. That was the whole reason Trump broke through in the primary and general election, wasn’t it? He’d shatter the mold of stale liberal/conservative policy disputes and find a centrist third way in Washington that would benefit blue-collar Americans. Well, says Noonan, here’s his big chance:
There is a third group emerging that doesn’t have a name. They see themselves not as philosophers or ideologues but as people who live in reality. Some are tough-eyed: Americans will never give up what they’ve come to see as an entitlement. Some look at the country around them and see crises—in employment, drug abuse, family formation, education. This is no time to make things harder for people, even for a while. Some are merely practical: ObamaCare helped some of their constituents and jerked others around with lost coverage and jacked-up deductibles. A fix can’t just spread the misery around in a new way…
Here is the tradition. If you are Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 and you want to create Social Security—an act that affects Americans very personally—you get the other party in on it. You need them co-owning it, invested in it. You want the American people saying, “Congress did this,” not “the Democrats did this,” because if they say the latter the reform will always divide. FDR got 81 Republicans to vote for it in the House, and 284 Democrats. The same with Medicare in 1965: Lyndon Johnson did all he could to get the GOP on board. A majority of House Republicans supported it…
If it worked, Mr. Trump would crow he’s made the first big bipartisan deal in a generation—it’s a new day. It might help on future bipartisan efforts, such as infrastructure spending. And he can make it up to Republicans with conservative regulatory and tax reform.
I’d hate to see him marginalize conservatives but it would befit his big-government populist brand. If his goal is to help the “forgotten man” who helped get him elected, why would he sign on to a mostly status-quo bill that, if anything, is less generous to the “forgotten man” than Obama’s bill is? Use this as an opportunity to show that he’s a “new type of Republican” who won’t be beholden to the right and he’ll set the tone for his entire presidency. It seems like a no-brainer — except for one thing. Realistically, is there anything (short of single-payer) that Trump could propose to replace ObamaCare that Democrats would vote for? He spent several minutes in his Tucker Carlson interview a few nights ago stressing that they have no choice but to pass something without Democratic votes because Schumer and Pelosi are implacably opposed, as has been the case with the minority party for going on 15 years now. No matter how generous Trump is in protecting Medicaid or expanding tax credits, the left will insist on obstruction on the theory that it worked like a charm politically for McConnell and the GOP in 2010, 2014, and 2016 and will surely work for them too. They will. not. vote. against. ObamaCare. unless Trump gives them the full socialized-medicine dream. If a bipartisan bill is a figment of Noonan’s imagination, what choice does Trump have except to try to thread the needle on the right?