Leading up to healthcare vote, Trump kept asking aides ‘Is this really a good bill?’
The GOP’s attempt to pass repeal and replace Obamacare resulted in a colossal failure Friday due to several circumstances. Speaker Ryan might be celebrated as the party’s darling wonk, but he’s a lousy salesman. The obstructionist Freedom Caucus couldn’t be catered to. Senior adviser Jared Kushner was off skiing in Aspen during a crucial moment in his father-in-law’s presidency. And Sean Spicer’s bullheaded approach to building faux momentum wasn’t fooling anyone.
He was so sure. pic.twitter.com/Jqe3urz1n2
— Axios (@axios) March 24, 2017
But perhaps the largest amount of blame should be laid at the feet of POTUS himself. Donald Trump, apparently, didn’t have much faith in the bill, nor did he seem interested in learning about its inner-workings. His top priority seemed to be a reelection bid. On Friday night, The Washington Post and Politico each published comprehensive chronicles of the last 18 days that led to this giant L for the Republican Party, smatterings of which are excerpted below.
On Thursday, President Trump met with approximately 30 Republican congressmen at the White House in the hopes of winning over those uncommitted to the American Health Care Act. In the Cabinet Room, as Politico tells it, Trump cut off lawmakers who were discussing both the aforementioned EHB provision and the necessities in altering regulations for insurers. “Forget about the little shit,” Trump interjected. “Let’s focus on the big picture here.”
The “big picture,” as President Trump understood it, was himself.
More from Tim Alberta’s “Inside the GOP’s Health Care Debacle” at Politico:
The group of roughly 30 House conservatives, gathered around a mammoth, oval-shaped conference table in the Cabinet Room of the White House, exchanged disapproving looks. Trump wanted to emphasize the political ramifications of the bill’s defeat; specifically, he said, it would derail his first-term agenda and imperil his prospects for reelection in 2020. The lawmakers nodded and said they understood. And yet they were disturbed by his dismissiveness. For many of the members, the “little shit” meant the policy details that could make or break their support for the bill—and have far-reaching implications for their constituents and the country.
“We’re talking about one-fifth of our economy,” a member told me afterward.
Alberta highlights how Trump’s impulse to suck the oxygen out of the room with flippant remarks had complicated circumstances for crucial support within the Freedom Caucus, particularly with its chairman Mark Meadows. On Tuesday morning, two days before his “forget about the little shit” comment, Trump held court at the Capitol where he didn’t open himself up to understanding the needs of their constituents. Rather, he just wanted to cheerlead, as if he was heading up a sales meeting. Meadows was used as a prop.
After singling out Meadows and asking him to stand up in front of his colleagues, Trump joked that he might “come after” the Freedom Caucus boss if he didn’t vote yes, and then added, with a more serious tone: “I think Mark Meadows will get on board.”
It was a crucial misreading of Meadows, who has been determined to please both the White House and his conservatives colleagues on the Hill. Upon assuming the chairmanship of the Freedom Caucus earlier this year, Meadows was viewed suspiciously by some of his members who worried that the North Carolina congressman is too cozy with Trump and would hesitate to defy him.
“That was the biggest mistake the president could have made,” one Freedom Caucus member told me. “Mark desperately wanted to get to yes, and Trump made it impossible for him. If he flipped after that he would look incredibly weak.”
The Washington Post’s “‘The closer’? The inside story of how Trump tried — and failed — to make a deal on health care,” which also points out how the president remained willfully ignorant about party concerns, noted that his rodent instincts certainly kicked in during the 18-day circle jerk. Trump had constantly nudged White House advisers for reassurance that the American Health Care Act, despite the embarrassing CBO scores, was not the dried patch of goose jizz that everyone said it was.
Shortly after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled the Republican health-care plan on March 6, President Trump sat in the Oval Office and queried his advisers: “Is this really a good bill?”
And over the next 18 days, until the bill collapsed in the House on Friday afternoon in a humiliating defeat — the sharpest rebuke yet of Trump’s young presidency and his negotiating skills — the question continued to nag at the president.
Even as he thrust himself and the trappings of his office into selling the health-care bill, Trump peppered his aides again and again with the same concern, usually after watching cable news reports chronicling the setbacks, according to two of his advisers: “Is this really a good bill?”
In the end, the answer was no — in part because the president himself seemed to doubt it.
Now, after having witnessed the president take epic beatings from both the judicial system and the legislative branch, everyone in Washington is waiting to see what Trump’s next move will be. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has been touting tax code reform, but that’s a systemic change that will be met by just as many complications as healthcare. And you know Trump’s gotta do something that makes him feel good about himself.
I think it’s take the oil time. https://t.co/Ljn91xk5U9
— LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) March 25, 2017