Indubitably correct, but this is a key reason why I think Trump’s kidding himself when he says Democrats will “own it” if the GOP can’t pass anything to replace ObamaCare and the exchanges end up tanking. Republicans control the government; they can pass anything they like (within the boundaries of reconciliation in the Senate). They enjoy, as Rush aptly puts it, an opportunity we never thought they’d have. If they squander that opportunity and the non-group market for health insurance melts down, by what logic will voters see that exclusively as a Democratic problem? For fark’s sake, the party’s voting on a health-care bill tomorrow and they don’t even know which bill it is yet.
All of Rush’s complaints about the GOP these days are designed to some extent to exculpate Trump from the party’s failures and place the blame instead on the dreaded Ryan-McConnell establishment. But it’s not that simple. Trump has worked the phones to push reluctant congressional Republicans on health care but he’s done next to nothing to sell the bill publicly apart from the occasional campaign-style rally, most of which turn into stream-of-consciousness riffs on various subjects. (Today’s afternoon statement at the White House was unusual, a sign of how desperate the party is right now to reach an agreement on anything.) When he’s pressed in interviews on what he wants from health-care reform, he typically passes on the opportunity to push for something that would make populists happier and instead chatters vaguely about how “terrific” the bill is. He hasn’t done much to push his other supposed priorities either:
Infrastructure remains stuck near the rear of the legislative line, according to two dozen administration officials, legislators and labor leaders involved in coming up with a concrete proposal. It awaits the resolution of tough negotiations over the budget, the debt ceiling, a tax overhaul, a new push to toughen immigration laws — and the enervating slog to enact a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.
Mr. Trump’s team has yet to produce the detailed plan he has promised to deliver “very soon,” and the president has yet to even name any members to a new board he claimed would green-light big projects…
“The president would have been better off beginning his agenda with a major infrastructure package,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who has been working with the White House on the issue.
In the president’s defense, he’s been busy working on some sick new CNN burns for his Twitter feed lately.
Another thing: Read Rush’s extended monologue on this subject and you’ll see that it ends with exasperation over the GOP’s unwillingness to “reduc[e] the role of government in people’s lives” and to “stop growing government.” Trump himself almost never talks about smaller government as a key goal, though, with good reason: There’s increasingly little evidence that voters, including and especially his own base, are concerned about that in any meaningful sense. Go back to this poll from last week. When asked, 62 percent of Americans said it should be a federal responsibility to make sure that everyone has health coverage. Fully 64 percent oppose reducing federal funding for Medicaid. No wonder moderate Republicans are nervous about McConnell’s bill. Rush’s explanation for their opposition, though: “Some of this is due to the fact that there are people in that town (both parties) that just do not want Trump to succeed.”
We’re in a bizarro world here where neither Trump nor Rush, despite being ostentatiously populist, are addressing what voters actually seem to want in a bill whereas the supposed RINO sellouts — Collins, Portman, et al. who are resisting the Medicaid rollback — are. Yet it’s the latter who are supposedly betraying the former. Another way to phrase that is, which opportunity is the GOP supposedly squandering right now? The opportunity to pass a conservative agenda? I don’t know why they would want to seize that opportunity given that Trump took on all conservative comers last year and emerged the winner. It’s not a very conservative party anymore, if it ever was. If Rush means they’re squandering the opportunity to pass a populist agenda, that’s fair enough. But again, the populist-in-chief doesn’t seem to care much about that, so why should they? Most congressional Republicans aren’t populists and Trump knows that. But he’s content to follow their lead anyway. Why not blame him?
Exit question I’ve been thinking about lately: What percentage of Republicans in Congress are secretly rooting for Democrats to take back the majority next fall, provided that they hang onto their own individual seats? Gotta be upwards of 80 percent or more, right? Once they’re out of the majority they can stop worrying about governing, which they’re terrible at, and go back to loudly and impotently whining about how Democrats are destroying America. More importantly, they’d be off the hook for any Russiagate developments. If Bob Mueller finds a smoking gun or Trump decides to fire the special counsel after all, Democrats can deal with the hard task of what to do. The GOP’s obviously not fit to be a ruling party right now and they must know it. They’ll feel much better once they’re out of power and back to spending most of their time doing angry Fox News interviews hits or whatever.