THE MORNING PLUM:
Now that Senate Republicans are plunging into a protracted, divisive debate over the monstrous House GOP health bill, top Democratic strategists are consumed with a question: How can the party seize on this moment to hold GOP lawmakers accountable in 2018, keep the grass roots engaged, and, more broadly, bring about a period of Democratic renewal?
In a new memo to fellow Democrats, two senior Democratic strategists are arguing that the party must highlight the fact that the GOP health bill would not only leave many millions of people stranded without coverage — but, crucially, it would do this while delivering an enormous tax cut to the rich.
By highlighting this, the memo argues, Democrats can take advantage of a unique opportunity presented by the GOP health bill. The measure should allow Democrats to unmask Trump’s alleged economic populism as a total scam, and to show that in reality, Trump is furthering a conventionally plutocratic GOP agenda. The memo, which was authored by Dem strategist James Carville and Bridge Project founder David Brock, advises:
Trump was elected because he convinced demoralized Americans he would help their circumstances. … Trump lied to all of them …
The Republican tax agenda — big cuts for the wealthiest — has never been less popular with voters. But by combining their desires to cut taxes for the wealthiest of Americans in the name of stripping health care away from 26 million Americans, what’s left is toxic for anyone who is facing voters next year. Democrats cannot shy away from bringing that message home, and it has to be made consistently and repeatedly between now and next November…
For every single person who stands to lose their health insurance, and every person who is going to pay higher health care bills moving forward, the public needs to know those are direct results of Trumpcare. Simultaneously, we must never lose sight of the contrast at the crux of this legislation — Republicans inflicted all these terrible policies on Americans solely in the name of cutting taxes for millionaires to the tune of nearly $144 billion.
As this blog has reported, top Democrats have researched the so-called Obama-Trump voters — people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and switched to Trump in 2016 — and have determined that many of them believe the Democratic Party is in thrall to the wealthy, and Trump isn’t. Thus, driving home the realities of the Trump agenda is an urgent matter, heading into 2018.
The GOP health bill provides an opening to do that, the Carville-Brock memo argues. “Many of the Americans who are likely to suffer most at the hands of the Republican health care bill are the same people who had previously supported Democrats as recently as 2012,” it says. The memo also argues that Democrats “must explain … how our party will do better,” though it doesn’t outline any specific policies Democrats should embrace, instead emphasizing that Democrats need to present themselves as a check on the Trump/GOP plutocratic agenda. “In the coming weeks, we must make sure Americans are fully aware of the disastrous consequences of the Republican bill,” it notes.
Bridge Project is also launching digital ads targeting 24 vulnerable House Republicans who voted for the health bill — ads that should be seen as an early effort to establish a template for 2018:
Note that the ad’s leading attack is that Trumpcare would gut coverage for millions while cutting taxes for the rich — and that Trump has broken his promise to “take care of everybody.” It points out that Trumpcare would gut protections for people with preexisting conditions — but also that Trumpcare would cut $800 billion from Medicaid.
The GOP bill’s provision allowing states to waive the ban on jacked-up premiums for people with preexisting conditions has sucked up much attention. But the bill’s $800 billion in cuts to health spending on the poor, via the phaseout of the Medicaid expansion, combined with its enormous tax cut to the rich, is also a very stark illustration of the true priorities of the Republican Party — and, it turns out, of Trump, too. Throughout the campaign, Trump repeatedly suggested that he supported a robust government role in expanding health care to the poor and sick, and — combined with his vows not to touch Medicare and Medicaid — used this to achieve a patina of ideological heterodoxy that distanced him from Paul Ryan’s GOP, likely helping him win working-class voters.
Trump’s embrace of the House GOP bill blows up that scam. But the GOP bill also should blow up the Republican Party’s ongoing scam on this issue. Republicans have employed all sorts of lies and distortions to hide their cruelly regressive health-care designs behind vague suggestions that they actually want everybody to have “access” to coverage, and continue to do so. But the realities of the House GOP bill plainly reveal their true intentions for all to see.
Indeed, it’s a key political tell that Senate Republicans, in their health bill, are expected to soften not just the House GOP’s efforts to gut protections for preexisting conditions but also its massive gutting of the Medicaid expansion to fund a huge tax break for millionaires. Undoubtedly, though, the GOP bill that emerges at the end of this process will retain a good deal of awful, regressive policy. The question is whether Democrats can drive that home to voters, and make sure they remember what House Republicans tried to pull off — and if so, how much all that will matter, given the realities of the tough Senate map and the difficulties in taking back the House.
* GOP CONGRESSMAN GETS PUMMELED AT TOWN HALL: The Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports on a town hall meeting at which GOP Rep. Rod Blum of Iowa, whose district went narrowly for Trump, got hammered over his vote for the GOP health bill. One woman shouted:
“You voted on this bill in a rush. … This pertains to my life. This is not how democracy works. … What was the rush?”
When the Congressional Budget Office score of the GOP bill does come out, Republicans will have to retroactively explain why they voted for it before getting fully informed of its awfulness.
* GOP BILL COULD IMPACT EMPLOYER COVERAGE: Margot Sanger-Katz explains that the GOP health bill’s relaxing of regulations could impact not just the individual market, but employer coverage, too. This is the one to watch:
It is possible, through the interaction between the health bill and current regulations, that employers would be able to skirt rules that forbid them from limiting the total amount of health care they will pay for in a year or a worker’s lifetime. A rule capping the amount that a worker can be asked to pay in deductibles and co-payments each year could be similarly vulnerable.
Some experts think such outcomes are unlikely. But this underscores how little we know about how much disruption the bill would cause — another way the coming debate will be politically perilous.
* MORE BIG RATINGS CHANGES COMING: Last week the Cook Political Report shifted 20 House races toward Democrats in the wake of the GOP health bill. Now the Washington Examiner reports:
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, at the University of Virginia’s Center For Politics, another top elections forecaster, is set to announce Thursday that it is shifting 15 House races toward the Democrats, also with the health care vote in mind.
Still, the Examiner also reports that GOP strategists think the health bill won’t be that bad for GOP incumbents, because they say polling is not failing to capture its popularity among GOP voters.
* TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBES COULD SPILL INTO NEXT YEAR: CNN reports that there are increasing indications that the FBI and congressional probes into Russian meddling and possible Trump campaign collusion might continue deep into 2018:
FBI Director James Comey has given no timeline for the investigation. And there are new signs that congressional investigations into the affair may linger deep into Trump’s term. … A mountain of evidence and partisan disagreement mean it could be 2018 before the job is wrapped up. And even then, hopes are fading that there can be a bipartisan conclusion on the extent of Russian election meddling.
The findings will likely get tied up in partisan squabbling as Republicans do all they can to downplay them, but it could make a difference if any serious revelations hit during the 2018 midterms.
* REPUBLICANS SPLIT OVER TAX CUTS: Politico reports that Republicans are deeply divided over whether to go for vastly ambitious tax reform or merely just a nifty, lucrative tax cut, which would be a whole lot easier:
House Republican tax writers are trying to undercut the case for George W. Bush-style tax cuts, albeit delicately, arguing that would not do much for the economy, at least not compared to a wholesale rewrite. They’re also pointing to the government’s $14 trillion debt while warning that budget rules guarantee that any tax cuts that are not offset will have to be temporary, risking a replay of the years-long battle over the future of the Bush tax cuts.
So merely cutting taxes — including on the rich, naturally — wouldn’t actually do much for the economy, and would probably not be offset by tax reforms elsewhere, meaning they would balloon the deficit? Can we get that in writing?
* WHAT THE YATES HEARING REVEALED, IN TWO SENTENCES: Matthew Rosenberg aptly boils down the meaning of Monday’s hearing, where Sally Yates confirmed she warned the White House that Michael Flynn had lied about conversations with the Russian ambassador:
Perhaps the biggest takeaway on Monday was that a lot of people had serious concerns about Mr. Flynn serving as national security adviser. But none of them was named Donald J. Trump.
Barack Obama, Chris Christie, and Yates — the former acting attorney general — all warned Trump about Flynn. The question is why Trump didn’t fire him until after Yates’s warning was revealed publicly.
* ANOTHER BOGUS TRUMP ATTACK ON OBAMA: The White House has been claiming Flynn got security clearance approved during the final months of the Obama administration. But Glenn Kessler looks at the situation and finds it’s mostly a hyped attack:
In this case, Flynn’s clearance was a routine matter, said Jim Kudla, a [Defense Intelligence Agency] spokesman. Flynn had left the agency but the practice there is that all former DIA directors should keep a clearance so the current director is able to have a discussion with former directors about classified matters that might require insight from a previous director.
What’s more, Flynn did not receive the much higher level of security clearance that would have received scrutiny from top Obama officials. In any case, Obama privately told Trump the had serious misgivings about Flynn.