The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Sorry, folks. The GOP’s devious strategy for ramming Trumpcare through is working.

(Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
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We already knew that Senate Republicans were going to try to ram through their health-care bill by resorting to a scandalously secretive, absurdly compressed process. But now we have the details: According to the Wall Street Journal, the text of the bill will be released this Thursday; the Congressional Budget Office will release a score of the bill next Monday or Tuesday; and the Senate may well vote on it next Thursday.

Unfortunately, there are signs this morning that the Republican strategy is already working precisely as intended.

First, let’s note that the secrecy adopted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is explicitly designed to shield the Senate GOP health-care bill from as much debate and public scrutiny as possible. The text of the bill will be available for all of one week before it is likely to be voted upon, after having been drafted in such secrecy that even Republican senators complained that they were being kept in the dark. There have not been, and apparently will not be, any hearings before the vote.

What’s more, lawmakers and the public may have only two or three days to absorb the details and significance of the CBO’s conclusions. Given that this will be the most rich and detailed empirical analysis available of the bill’s likely impact on tens of millions of people and one-sixth of the U.S. economy, you’d think this document would be deserving of extensive consideration in all its complexity.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told CBS’s “Face the Nation” June 18 that a group of Senate Republicans is “working behind closed doors” on a health-care bill. (Video: Reuters)

But this rolling scandal doesn’t end there. This compressed schedule is not only designed to limit debate on the bill. As the Journal reports, the vote is being rushed for the express purpose of getting it done before the July 4 recess, because the failure to do so “could open Republican lawmakers up to pressure from constituents,” some of whom might be “concerned about losing their health coverage.” Thus, the schedule is also explicitly designed to shield lawmakers from public exposure and questioning about the immense human toll the measure they are considering could have — before they vote on it.

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A new CBS News poll finds that the public broadly wants a more open process. Americans say by 73 percent to 25 percent that Senate Republicans should discuss their plans publicly rather than privately. More than three-quarters of independents agree.

But here’s the really key finding from the CBS News poll: Americans are in the dark about the measure. The poll finds that Americans say by 76-23 that they haven’t heard enough yet about the GOP plan to have a good understanding of it. Independents say this by 76-22.

The juxtaposition of these findings neatly underscores the profound cynicism at the core of the GOP approach. As Brian Beutler has argued, GOP leaders are not merely lying about what is in the bill. They are also lying about the process itself, because copping to what they are actually doing would implicitly admit that their bill — which is very likely to be almost as cruel in its broad strokes as the House bill — cannot survive genuine public debate. This new polling illuminates the point: Republican leaders are willing to endure the public’s disapproval of their efforts to hide the bill from the public (to the degree that they care about that disapproval at all), precisely because those efforts are keeping the public ignorant about what they actually intend to do to our health-care system.

But the cynicism and bad faith run even deeper than this. Multiple rank-and-file Republican senators also know this secrecy is indefensible — after all, they have lodged lots of public complaints about it. But they are not taking any steps to give those complaints any real force with GOP leaders. Why? The most convincing explanation is that they, too, know they are better off as long as voters — despite their disapproval of the process — don’t have a full understanding of what they will soon be voting on, and possibly, passing.

It is possible, of course, that public disapproval of the secrecy of the process and of the bill itself — once we see it — could combine to dissuade a few moderate GOP senators from voting for the bill, perhaps dooming it. But nonetheless, right now, the Republicans’ blanket of secrecy is working. By keeping the public in the dark about Republicans’ true designs, it is having precisely its desired effect.

* IN TRUMP ERA, SECRECY IS THE NEW NORMAL: The Post has a great piece documenting that secrecy isn’t just shrouding the health-care bill; it’s also being instituted on many other fronts by the Trump administration:

Officials at numerous agencies of the Trump administration have stonewalled friendly Republicans in Congress — not to mention Democrats — by declining to share internal documents on sensitive matters or refusing to answer questions … Trump, meanwhile, is still forbidding the release of his tax returns, his aides have stopped releasing logs of visitors to the White House and his media aides have started banning cameras at otherwise routine news briefings, as happened Monday.

And the drainage of the swamp continues apace.

* ANOTHER POLL FINDS TRUMP APPROVAL IN THE TOILET: A new CBS News poll finds that Trump’s job approval is down to 36-57, a new low in CBS News polling. And:

The drop in the President’s approval rating is partially due to ebbing support among Republicans. Seventy-two percent approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing, a decline of eleven points since April.

Is Trump’s awesomely rock solid base beginning to erode?

* DON’T TRY TO STOP MUELLER, AMERICANS SAY: Two other important nuggets in the new CBS News poll: 56 percent of Americans say special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation will be “impartial,” and 81 percent say Trump should not try to stop his investigation.

Interestingly, even 75 percent of Republicans say Trump should not try to stop Mueller’s probe, while only 20 percent of them say he should. So perhaps we should rethink this notion that Trump’s base is “rooting” for him to go full authoritarian.

* SENATE WILL DEBATE HEALTH BILL FOR 20 HOURS: This is a clever juxtaposition from the New York Times:

Before Congress adopted the Affordable Care Act, Democrats held numerous public hearings, and the Senate debated the measure on the floor for 25 days. Senate Republican leaders plan to push through their repeal bill under arcane budget rules that would limit debate on it to 20 hours.

So there will be fewer hours of public debate on the GOP bill than there were days of debate on the ACA.

* NOBODY AGREES WITH TRUMP ON CLIMATE: A new Associated Press-NORC poll finds that less than a third of Americans agree with Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, and only 18 percent think it will help the economy. And:

A slim majority — 52 percent — worry that withdrawing will hurt the economy … two-thirds of Americans think climate change is happening, while about 1 in 10 think it’s not … Seven in 10 Americans think it’s a problem that the U.S. government should be working to address.

Given that large majorities reject pretty much every argument he’s making about climate change and the Paris deal, maybe we’ll be able to undo the damage later.

* POLLS ARE OPEN IN GEORGIA: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes the stakes of today’s special election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel:

Democrats hope an Ossoff victory could deal a blow to Trump’s presidency and the GOP agenda … Republicans see a Handel win as a chance to bolster incumbents in competitive districts who are nervous about allying with Trump. Ossoff … has centered his message on two audiences: There’s left-leaning voters infuriated by Trump … And there’s the moderates and independents who have backed GOP candidates but are turned off by national politics.

A close finish will indicate Trump is weighing down Republicans even if Ossoff loses. But nonetheless, if Handel wins, Republicans will interpret it as a sign they can stick with Trump.

* TRUMP IS UP EARLY AND WATCHING GEORGIA: Good morning, Mr. President:

It’s interesting that Trump would endorse Handel on health care, given that a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll found that only 1 in 4 voters in the district approve of the Trump/GOP repeal-and-replace plan.