President Trump has, to this point, taken a hands-off approach to Obamacare repeal. The White House did not release its own health-care plan, opting instead to merely supervise the House GOP’s drafting process. And while Trump has used his bully pulpit (and/or Twitter account) to denounce critics of his immigration policies and military judgments, he’s declined to browbeat the House Freedom Caucus for opposing any version of Obamacare repeal that could actually survive the Senate.
When the president has spoken about health-care reform, he’s often sputtered platitudes about the need for a more universal and affordable health-care system, which his party has no interest in creating.
On Tuesday afternoon, Trump sputtered such sweet nothings once again. But this time, he did so while singing the praises of Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act.
“I think we’re going to have a tremendous success,” the president said at the White House, during a meeting with his House deputy whip team. “It’s a complicated process, but actually it’s very simple. It’s called good health care.”
“So, we’re going to do something that’s great and I’m proud to support the replacement plan released by the House of Representatives and encouraged by members of both parties,” Trump continued. “It’s a great bill, we’re going to have tremendous — I really believe we’re going to have tremendous support … I’m already seeing the support not only in this room, I’m seeing it from everybody.”
Apparently, “everybody” does not include a large swath of the House GOP; at least seven Republican senators; a bevy of conservative interest groups; multiple medical lobbies; Republican health-care wonks; and most right-wing media outlets.
Trump then described this imaginary popular bill, saying it “will lower costs, expand choices, increase competition, and ensure health-care access for all Americans.”
“This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor. This will be a plan where you can choose your plan,” Trump said, apparently ad-libbing. “And you know what the plan is — this is the plan.”
Nothing in the AHCA would guarantee any individual American’s ability to choose their own doctor or health-care plan.
The initial response to the AHCA has led many observers to conclude that Obamacare repeal is on its way to a speedy death. Paul Ryan’s alternative to Obamacare appears to be too liberal for House conservatives — and too conservative for Senate moderates. At this point, the best thing for the party may be to let this health-care experiment die and get back to what they’re good at — cutting taxes for rich people.
From one angle, Trump should be fine with that: There is no reason to think the president has any sincere convictions about health-care policy. But then, he is deeply committed to being perceived as a winner who fulfills his promises. And as a candidate, Trump made few promises more vigorously — or repeatedly — than his vow to repeal Obamacare.
So the next couple weeks should be interesting. Trump could either disassociate himself from Paul Ryan’s bill, and just start braying about tax cuts (and/or Obama trying to poison his food). Or he could lash out against Obamacare repeal’s enemies in rabid defense of his wounded ego.
Regardless, as of now, it looks like he’s going to need some kind of narrative to explain how his failure to pass Obamacare repeal was actually a success. Perhaps, the terrific health-care bill would have passed — if not for the votes all those undocumented immigrants.