March 24, 2017

The Trump Ultimatum

He’s done negotiating on health care. Will his gamble work?

Donald Trump’s vision for government is not a limited one, and he is not a conservative in any meaningful sense (which doesn’t mean some results aren’t conservative, but stick with us). Paul Ryan’s goal is a government that works efficiently for the best price — he is generally conservative, but technocratically so. Moderate and establishment Republicans want favorable media coverage and to be considered the “serious” ones. Members of the House Freedom Caucus are ideologically committed to limited government.

The necessity of these groups working together to repeal and replace ObamaCare has brought Washington to where it is now: an apparent impasse. A planned Thursday House vote on the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) was postponed until at least Friday afternoon because Freedom Caucus members still had a list of demands. If more than 22 House Republicans vote against the bill, it will fail in the face of united Democrat opposition. Whether enough palms can be greased in backroom deals remains to be seen.

The Congressional Budget Office didn’t help matters, releasing an updated estimate Thursday night based on changes made to the legislation. The updated bill wouldn’t cut the deficit as much as the first version, while still leaving 24 million more Americans uninsured. There are plenty of problems with the CBO’s analysis, but that doesn’t change the media narrative.

Conservatives generally hate the bill that Trump calls “a great plan!” But Trump issued an ultimatum — straight out of “The Art of the Deal” — to House Republicans to pass the AHCA because he’s done negotiating. If the bill fails, he says he’ll move on to other priorities. As veteran political strategist Dick Morris put it, “Like a rug buyer at a Turkish bazaar, Donald Trump has tired of haggling and is walking away, looking over his shoulder to see if the seller is chasing after him, agreeing to his price.” Just wait for Trump to then blame the Tea Party for saving ObamaCare.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the Freedom Caucus’s longest-serving member of Congress, doesn’t want that narrative to take hold. “You want to score a touchdown, but sometimes, on the fourth down, you kick a field goal,” he said. “The choice is yes or no. I’m not going to vote no and keep ObamaCare. That’d be a stupid damn vote.”

Oh, by the way, the Senate will have something to say about it, so whatever the House does is a long way from any final version.

Perhaps the greatest irony in all of this is that GOP primary voters chose a man to blow up Washington and the Republican Party. And now they’re mad at what’s happening amidst the wreckage.

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