Trump pushes revised healthcare bill, saying, “The plan gets better and better;” well, not really

The News:

President Donald Trump, when asked last week whether he would choose to either push an Obamacare repeal bill or government funding measure through Congress this week, said he wants both.

@realDonaldTrump wants another crack at #Obamacare repeal Click To Tweet

To hear Mr. Trump tell it, passing a bill this week that would reform and replace the Affordable Care Act is going to be extremely easy.

“We’re doing very well on healthcare,” he insisted. “We’ll see what happens. But this is a great bill. There’s a great plan. And this will be great healthcare.”

Yet the hard push to pass House Republican leadership’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) has thus far failed to garner the votes needed for passage, with Republicans on both ends of the spectrum struggling to reconcile themselves to vote yes.

“You know, there was never a give-up,” Trump continued. “Remember, it took Obamacare 17 months. I’ve really been negotiating this for two months, maybe even less than that, because we had a 30-day period where we did lots of other things the first 30 days.”

After two scheduled House votes were canceled, Trump expressed the intent to move on to tax reform. The President tweeted that he blamed the House Freedom Caucus for the bill’s demise, despite additional opposition from moderates to the bill that House Republican leadership crafted and championed.

“The plan gets better and better and better and it’s gotten really really good and a lot of people are liking it a lot,” Trump emphasized repeatedly. “It’s evolving,” he told a room full of reporters at a joint press conference Thursday with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Steve’s Take:

Is the Trump health plan getting “better and better and better?” Well, not at all, really. Reps. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Mark Meadows (R-NC) have reportedly worked on an amendment that would restore essential health benefits that already exist in the ACA into the Republican alternative, while targeting a “community rating” provision that would hurt Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Let’s put aside what’s rumored to be happening. With the help of CNN, here’s what we actually know about attempts to resurrect the healthcare law that failed to even make it to a floor vote in the GOP-controlled House last month:

  1. The changes being discussed involve the curtailing or, at the very least emasculating, of one of the most popular elements of Obamacare: Prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.
  1. The leaders of the House Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group, an organization of Republican moderates, have been meeting regularly about a compromise plan that, according to congressional sources, could yield between 18 and 20 more “yes” votes from the party’s most conservative wing than for the previous iteration of the bill. It’s unclear whether those 20 votes would be enough to get health care through the chamber.
  1. Outside of a very small group of negotiators, the new and improved bill is a mystery to members of Congress who were expected to be briefed on it over the weekend. (By the way, they won’t even be back on Capitol Hill until Tuesday evening.)
  1. Congress must pass a government funding bill this week or watch the government shut down–an event that would be a catastrophe for Republicans in power.

Frankly, I haven’t heard any professional Congress-watcher suggest that Trump’s optimism about the “really, really good” plan that the “people are liking a lot” is based upon reality, political or otherworldly.

Chris Cillizza at CNN hits the nail squarely on the head saying,

“It’s not the worst strategy and it’s born, of course, from Trump’s experience as a developer and reality TV star. Create your own reality and then exert pressure to bend other people to believe it. And, if it doesn’t work, declare victory and move on.”

The problem for Trump is that Congress doesn’t work like a business or a reality TV show where, well, you’re the boss. The House consists of 435 primarily small businessmen and women, all of whom run their own shows as king or queen.

Faking it doesn’t cut it with this bunch. Especially when, like Trump, your approval ratings are mired in the low 40s.

Trump simply lacks the political leverage to turn his cheerful, optimistic talk into the yes votes that are needed. No member of Congress worried about their chances of winning next November is going to take a rushed vote on a healthcare bill they have barely even seen but they know is messing with the pre-existing condition clause–just for starters.

Trump may declare victory no matter what happens in Congress this week. But that won’t change the fact that simply saying the healthcare bill is “better and better and better” doesn’t make it true.

What’s the public perception of this seemingly hysterical maneuver to resuscitate the unpopular GOP health plan?

In its latest national poll, released last week, Quinnipiac asked respondents a simple question: “Do you think that Republicans in Congress should try to repeal and replace Obamacare again, or do you think they should move on to other issues?”

The results, according to CNBC, weren’t close: only 36% of the public wants GOP lawmakers to continue the attempt, while 60% want Republicans to move on. Moreover, the results were quite wide-ranging: men and women, people of different education levels, people of every age group, people of different races and ethnicities all said they don’t want the effort to repeal Obamacare to continue.

And yet Donald Trump, who said last month that he’s prepared to move on, now insists he’s not moving on. The Washington Post reported:

“President Trump is pushing Congress toward another dramatic showdown over the Affordable Care Act, despite big outstanding obstacles to a beleaguered revision plan and a high-stakes deadline [this] week to keep the government running.”

Sadly, the sudden, desperate pressure from the White House to pass a revision has been met with fresh skepticism by numerous Capitol Hill Republicans and their aides, who just recently were humiliated when their bill failed to reach the House floor for a vote. They’re asking what’s changed to suggest a new revision would fare any better.

Unhappily for a growing number of us, like so much of what Trump says, there’s no reason to believe any of this. The rest of the GOP plan–slashing Medicaid, cutting taxes on the wealthy, leaving millions of families without coverage–would remain fundamentally the same. As MSNBC’s Steve Benen aptly notes, a variety of adjectives come to mind to characterize the revised plan, but “better” isn’t one of them.

Is this a plan “a lot of people are liking…a lot”? Again, not really. Putting aside the fact that there’s no reason to believe Trump has any idea what’s actually in the latest reprise of the proposal, there’s no new groundswell of Republican support for this. On the contrary, GOP leaders are downplaying the possibility that it’ll even be considered.

The broader question in the context of pure political strategy is why Trump and his allies are so desperate to revive a terrible bill, which no one likes, which has already humiliated the party once and is, for all politically useful purposes, dead. Could the answer simply lie in the President’s ego?

The White House said Thursday the House may vote on the new-but-not-better GOP bill as early as this Wednesday–the day after Congress returns from its two-week spring break. Why the rush?

Part of it is because the Trump camp wants to act before lawmakers can hear from the Congressional Budget Office and terrified constituents, but the other part is the looming/arbitrary 100-day deadline.

The attempt to legislate in such manner is as dangerous as it is pitiable, and there’s little to suggest GOP lawmakers are prepared to put themselves at risk.

Steve's Take: Rushed #Obamacare repeal is as dangerous as it is pitiable Click To Tweet

Making matters worse, there’s a government-shutdown deadline Friday, and when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill, they’re going to have to work quickly to keep the lights on. The President, with no real understanding of how Congress works, said Thursday that the House should have no trouble avoiding a government shutdown and passing healthcare legislation over the course of four days.

“I think we want to keep the government open, don’t you agree?” Trump said. “So I think we’ll get both.”

Our President seems to believe if he says something enough times, it will happen. Nice theory, but this isn’t TV’s never-never land, where that might actually work.

You’re in Washington DC now, Mr. Trump. Please snap out of it.