President Donald Trump told Republican senators Tuesday that the House-passed health care bill he helped revive is “mean” and urged them to craft a version that is “more generous,” congressional sources said.
Trump’s remarks were a surprising slap at a Republican-written House measure that was shepherded by Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and whose passage the president lobbied for and praised. At a Rose Garden ceremony minutes after the bill’s narrow House passage on May 4, Trump called it “a great plan.”
The president’s criticism, at a White House lunch with 15 GOP senators, also came as Senate Republican leaders’ attempts to write their own health care package have been slowed by disagreements between their party’s conservatives and moderates.
The Senate was unlikely to come up with its own bill before this episode; now, that possibility becomes even more remote. Trump cannot be trusted to support what Republicans put out, so why go out on a limb for extremely unpopular legislation? If they pass Trump’s tax cuts, they run the risk that Trump will call it a giveaway to the rich, or if they pass repeal of Dodd-Frank, they might get labeled Wall Street pawns by the president. He’s loyal to no one and believes in nothing, so whenever their actions draw criticism, Trump will be among the first to cut and run, decrying the very action he demanded his party take.
Ironically, as Republicans refuse to distance themselves from Trump’s egregious behavior, scandals and ethical shortcomings, he repays them — by creating the perfect soundbite for Democratic ads in 2018.
The House GOP threw the American Health Care Act together with little regard to its impact on ordinary Americans and was willing to slash health care for the poor and middle class while shoveling tax cuts into the coffers of the richest Americans. Trump insisted they pass something and then threw a celebration in the Rose Garden. So much for that.
Trump, of course, cares not even a tiny bit about substance — and we have yet to see him demonstrate even a rudimentary knowledge of what is in the bill. Having made a bargain with a policy know-nothing who lacks any interest in anything but his own winning, Republicans now find themselves excoriated for the very same reason Democrats lambasted the bill.
We have observed frequently that Trump’s rotten character and flightiness makes legislation nearly impossible. Ryan made precisely the opposite bet, namely that Trump’s character and intellectual deficits hardly mattered because he could help Republicans get what they wanted. In fact, Trump’s defects make it nearly impossible for Ryan to achieve his aims. Republicans now wind up with the worst of all worlds. They are getting virtually none of their big-ticket legislative items through. Republicans who voted for the AHCA dud will get clobbered for passing a “mean bill.” They are shackled to a president whose disapproval in the Gallup poll hit 60 percent on Tuesday. And to top it off, Republicans’ slavish loyalty to Trump will be cited as evidence they are unserious about acting as a check on the president and fulfilling their constitutional oversight responsibilities.
Those in the #NeverTrump camp saw exactly this situation as the inevitable outcome of the GOP’s Faustian bargain with Trump. If they lose the House in 2018 and then the White House in 2020, perhaps some soul searching and creative destruction on the right can lead to a functional, respectable center-right party that demands experienced leaders with a moral core.