Watching President Trump's "repeal and replace" statement at the White House yesterday, I was struck by how little he's used his presidential bully pulpit to drive consistent messaging on this subject. It's not as though he's been silent on the matter, far from it; but his previous public statements have felt ad hoc, and have at times betrayed policy incoherence. This was different. Flanked by Obamacare victims -- whose existence too many on the Left continue to callously and condescendingly deny -- Trump showcased individual families' plights while highlighting the law's shattered promises. He attacked Democrats for lying extensively while selling their failing law, dabbling in the sort of demagoguery ("Obamacare is death") that the Left has been pushing for months.
He also criticized them for refusing to play ball to fix their own broken law. For their part, Democrats say they'd love to "fix" Obamacare...with more government and spending. Not to mention that Chuck Schumer just explicitly said that a disastrous single-payer scheme should be on the table. Let's face it: Trump is highly unlikely to win over any Democrats with this eleventh-hour push. But the "resistance" wasn't really his intended audience on Monday afternoon. No, these remarks were mostly directed at wavering Republicans, who will determine whether or not the party follows through on seven years of clear and consistent promises:
It is a mistake for the Senate to proceed with a vote on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/VxBQEZMDjr— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) July 24, 2017
Ah yes, "bipartisanship." Some observers have noted that if the Senate's last-ditch effort goes down in flames today, Trump seems to be laying the groundwork to blame Congress. While he'd certainly share partial blame, he'd be mostly correct on this particular point: Republicans campaigned on 'repeal and replace' for years, over which period they failed to rally around a single alternative proposal. This president is willing to sign virtually anything that crosses his desk. The House gritted its teeth and did its job. This process now comes down to a small group of Republican Senators. My position on voting to proceed to a bill -- or various bills -- is quite clear. Leadership now says that multiple plans will get a hearing and a vote, if GOP members don't join with Democrats to obstruct motions to proceed:
Cornyn: Whether it's "2015 bill or the Cassidy-Collins bill or Graham-Cassidy bill -- everybody's gonna get a chance to vote on everything." https://t.co/OtXNrTAh6N— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) July 24, 2017
And the pressure will be on:
HHS secretary Price says Vice President Pence will be at the Senate on Tuesday to break any healthcare ties— Jonathan Easley (@JonEasley) July 24, 2017
Question. Will McCain be there? Answer: Yes. Does that mean they've got the numbers? Unclear, but there's no breathing room on whip counts as things stand. Meanwhile, here's Mitch McConnell's announcement that the Senate will vote to proceed to Obamacare replacement bills:
Now, Obamacare teeters on the edge of total collapse, threatening to drag even more of the men and women we represent down with it. That should not be an acceptable outcome to any of us. It certainly is not acceptable to me. I made a commitment to the people I represent. I told the people of Kentucky I would vote to move beyond the failures of Obamacare. The Senate did so in 2015, but President Obama wielded his veto pen. The Senate can do so again now, and President Trump will use his pen to sign such legislation. The first step this time, the first vote we will soon take, is on whether or not to begin the debate at all. I believe my mandate from the people of Kentucky is to vote yes. And I certainly intend to do so. I know many colleagues feel the same. I know many of us have waited years for this moment to finally arrive. And, at long last, it finally has. I would urge every colleague to join me...The only way we’ll have the opportunity to consider ideas is if Senators are allowed to offer and debate them. That means voting to begin the open amendment process. That means voting to kick off a robust debate in which Senators from all parties can represent the views of their constituents. It means voting to proceed. And that will occur [on Tuesday].
As we await the results of this gambit, go back and read this post from yesterday. The single most prominent charge against the Senate bill (22 million people will "lose" coverage) is inaccurate and based on bad CBO data. That should be a game-changer in this debate, if only the GOP could get its act together. Do Republicans have the ability to convince their nervous colleagues on the facts, then effectively refute the Left's deluge of attacks? It's time. I'll leave you with Rush Limbaugh warning the Republican Party not to choke away a historic opportunity they never thought they'd have:
UPDATE - At the White House this morning, Sec. Price told me he's guardedly optimistic that the motion to proceed will squeak through -- but cautioned that even if the Senate gets "onto" a bill, the legislation in its current form still can't pass, necessitating more amendments and alterations.