Trump moved on health care to get even with a dead man
I wrote this morning about Trump's one consistent philosophy throughout his life: get even.
He insists on going after Democrats and the FBI for the Russia investigation, ensuring that it stays in the news even though it is not in his interest, especially since the cable nets are in the process of self-flagellation and are eager to give him as much good coverage as they can. This health care thing, equally self-destructive, is all about getting even with a dead man, John McCain:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged President Trump to hold off on pushing for a court-ordered destruction of the Affordable Care Act, advice the president ultimately ignored, according to a senior Republican official familiar with the conversation.
The unheeded counsel, which McCarthy recounted to fellow lawmakers in recent days, underscores the angst that has set in among Republicans now that Trump is pursuing the politically precarious strategy with no plan in hand to replace Barack Obama’s signature health-care law.
McCarthy has complained privately to donors that the GOP attempt to gut Obamacare — including its most popular provisions, such as protections for preexisting conditions — was the main reason the party lost at least House 40 seats in last year’s midterm elections.
Now, Republicans on both sides of the Capitol are worried that Trump is forcing them to confront a still volatile issue, with more potential to undercut the party than bolster it heading in the 2020 elections.
McCarthy’s misgivings were first reported by Axios. The official who described his caution to Trump to The Washington Post requested anonymity to share a private conversation.
Trump has put a brave face on the effort, proclaiming that Republicans will become “the party of health care” and promising a replacement that will be well-received by voters.
“If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we’ll have a plan that is far better than Obamacare,” he told reporters Wednesday during an event in the Oval Office.
In a filing Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the Justice Department argued that the ACA should be thrown out in its entirety, including provisions protecting those with preexisting health conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health-care plans.
If the case reaches the Supreme Court, it’s unclear how it would fare: Five justices who preserved the ACA during a previous case are all still on the court.
But if the law is struck down, Republicans fret that the party will be blamed for more than 20 million people losing their health insurance — and they fear that crafting an alternative would prove unwieldy in a deeply divided Congress.
“We’re going to have to double down on the fact that we need to protect people with preexisting conditions, and we need to find alternatives that work,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).
“It would be really hard,” she acknowledged.
During a closed-door lunch on Tuesday, Trump relayed to Senate Republicans that he had come up with a slogan — “Republicans are the party of health care” — on the short ride over from the White House to the Capitol, said people familiar with the gathering, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Trump told the Republicans that he “owned” the issues of the economy and border security, but the party is vulnerable on health care. He said he wanted to get a new plan during the election, according to those familiar with the gathering.
Trump’s strategy has hardly been universally embraced.
“It’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard,” said a senior GOP aide, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “It is the equivalent of punching yourself in the face repeatedly.”
Beyond policy concerns, Republicans on both sides of the Capitol were also baffled by Trump’s decision to step on a rare news cycle that casts him in a positive light.
He believes he wins when he wreaks vengeance on his enemies. That is his operating worldview. Read his books. Listen to his speeches from long before he ran for president. That's what "lock her up!" is all about, after all this time.
He believes he needs to best John McCain in order to win the 2020 election. A dead man. Think about that.