Update 3/24: Today is the big day for Donald Trump. The vote in the House is set for Friday and, as of this writing, the votes for the bill are not yet there. In light of the tightness of the margin, I'm re-posting this piece I wrote two weeks ago about how health care is Trump's chance to prove how he can make the best deals.
Donald Trump was elected president on this basic idea: Everyone currently in the government is dumb and makes bad deals. I am smart and make good deals.
Many people believed that despite their doubts about Trump's style and persona he was, fundamentally, right. Government had over-promised and under-delivered for way too long. Politicians had their chance. Now it was time to turn things over to someone who had actually sat across a boardroom table and cut deals in the real world.
Enter the new health-care bill that aims to remove several major tenets of the Affordable Care Act and replace them with more conservative proposals. The legislation, which two House committees have begun to debate today, is already under fire from conservatives dissatisfied with the expansion of Medicaid remaining in place and from moderates concerned about penalizing people who fall off the insurance rolls. Less than 24 hours after the legislation was first unveiled, some members of the House Freedom Caucus, the GOP's most conservative wing, were declaring it DOA.
And then there was this from Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a leading libertarian voice in the House:
It's safe to say that's not the reception the bill's authors were hoping for from within their own party — particularly on the signature legislative promise GOP elected officials made to the base for the better part of the last decade.
This is where the rubber meets the road for Dealmaker Donald. If this bill goes down, it's a major political problem for Republicans. Not only would their base be demoralized/angry, it could also alienate independents who voted for Trump believing he might, maybe, actually be able to change things. Heck, even Trump acknowledges this reality.
Voting for Trump was voting for real change in how Washington works — no matter the way that change happened. Sure his methods are unorthodox and, sure, he says and does some things I don't like, but if he can get things done that make my life better then I'm all for him. That's how lots and lots of people approached the 2016 vote.
If Trump can't make those deals happen, then what is he left with? He is just a guy who says and does things you don't really like.
To his credit, Trump seems to grasp the stakes here. He huddled with members of the House Republican whip team on Tuesday night. Wednesday afternoon, he gathered conservatives at the White House. Tonight, Trump hosts Sen. Ted Cruz, a 2016 primary challenger and a vocal opponent to the current health-care replacement law, for dinner. (I'd love to be a fly on the wall for THAT one.)
“We are going to have a full-court press,” confirmed White House press secretary Sean Spicer in his daily news briefing Wednesday. "If anyone can get a deal done, it's Donald Trump."
Make no mistake: This is a time of proving for Trump. He ran on a unique ability to cut deals. He can't fail in his first chance to do just that.