The Republican Party gave health care reform a go and it failed miserably. There hasn’t been a crashing and burning of this magnitude since the Hindenburg. Yet, there could be rumbling to jump start another health care push, despite House Speaker Paul Ryan conceding last Friday that Obamacare is here to stay for the foreseeable future after pulling the GOP’s alternative health care bill due to lack of support. President Trump is also confident that a deal can be made (via CNN):
Republicans insisted they had no "Plan B" for their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. But a few days later, after crashing into what might be the new third rail of American politics, Republicans are talking publicly and privately about ... Plan B.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke with several House members over the weekend to discuss a path forward, a senior administration official and Republican official with knowledge of the discussions told CNN. And House Speaker Paul Ryan -- despite saying Friday that "Obamacare is the law of the land" -- appears ready to keep going as well.
"I know we're going to make a deal on health care, that's such an easy one," Trump told a bipartisan group of senators and spouses at a White House reception Tuesday night.
For the party to have any credibility, they have to do this again. The GOP base did not invest almost a decade of time, money, and energy to give their party, which is the dominant political force in the country, to give them a failing result. Republicans campaigned on repealing Obamacare. They won Congress and the presidency because of it. At the same time, the divisions within the party are deep and well entrenched. It’s going to be the same suspects with the same issues that sunk the American Health Care Act. And now that they know they can derail the establishment, they might be even more emboldened to either stand firm or push for conservative initiatives on health care that their base demands. Either way, Speaker Ryan has to balance the needs of his right flank and make sure he doesn’t look like he’s ceding too much ground at the risk of marginalizing the moderate wing of the party. Both conservatives and moderates killed the GOP health care push. President Trump also needs to be more hands on if there’s a second attempt. No more being at arm’s length and he should have his staff find dozens of middle class families who have been struggling under Obama’s unaffordable health care reform, having them one-by-one detail their economic pain.
Like tax reform and infrastructure, this is going to be tough. To complicate matters, the word is that Trump wants to do both simultaneously, which also rehashes the same divisions within the party that sunk health care. Axios, who first reported on this angle, had an update on the tax reform/infrastructure idea:
It's a major strategic shift — infrastructure was likely to be parked until next year.
Trump needs fast victories. Infrastructure is big, flashy, and potentially bipartisan.
Trump feels burned by the conservative House Freedom Caucus and is ready to deal with Dems. Dangling infrastructure spending is an obvious way to buy support of potentially dozens of Dems, meaning he wouldn't be hostage to hardliners.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who would steer Trump's construction package through the House, tells Swan he's optimistic Trump could get it done this year.
Shuster was an early Trump supporter and has been chatting with the billionaire about roads and airports long before he ran for President.
What we're hearing: A well-wired Republican tells me the party can't risk "looking like a clown car." So leaders are desperate to head off a government shutdown at the end of April, and to put together a plausible path to victory on tax reform.
For now, given how health care ended, I’m not confident this will be successful either. Moreover, FiveThirtyEight broke down why GOP-led health care reform failed. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie mentioned this as well, but the data site also noted how Trump’s business prowess and strategy that he usually employs to get deals done failed. Moreover, Twitter, which has been used to put pressure on Congress, failed to move the conservative wing of the GOP. In all, this is going to be the same headache all over again
Broadly, there were four blocs of GOP members opposed to the legislation: those from the conservative and anti-establishment House Freedom Caucus; those in districts that Hillary Clinton won or almost won in 2016, putting them in some political peril if they backed a bill that is very unpopular; those associated with the Tuesday Group of more centrist House Republicans; and a few who are kind of mavericks, sometimes voting against the position of GOP congressional leaders and Trump. But there were some “no’s” outside of those four blocs, and many members within those four blocs who said that they supported the AHCA. (Some members fall into in more than one of these groups.)
…the unsuccessful scramble to pass the AHCA raises the possibility that Trump’s talents work better on the campaign trail or in the business world than in the West Wing. None of his negotiating moves worked. In meetings with members of Congress, he bluntly called out those who were not yet behind the bill, an intimidating approach that presidents often avoid. He tried to negotiate the details of the bill with the Freedom Caucus, while also using his Twitter feed to pressure them.
The Freedom Caucus was unmoved.
I admire the Trump White House for trying to do big things, wanting to do massive pieces of legislation now that the GOP is running the show. But it’s been a disaster thus far. And tax reform isn’t going to be a smooth ride either.
Exit question: Why not just put the 2015 reconciliation bill back on the table?