Donald Trump is nothing if not audaciously flexible with facts. If saying something that is objectively ludicrous furthers his purposes at any given moment, he’s fully up to the task. It is with this perspective that one should read this strange report from the conservative Washington Examiner suggesting that even as the central Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill gets ripped apart at the hands of Trump’s supposed allies in Congress, a second bill requiring not only every Republican vote but many Democrats is approaching with the speed of light:
President Trump told a closed-door meeting of grassroots conservative leaders on Wednesday to expect another, companion health-care bill to hit the House as early as next week, according to sources present for the meeting.
The new legislation would differ from the plan presently working its way through the House in that it would not proceed through budget reconciliation and would therefore require cloture in the Senate.
“Cloture” means 60 Senate votes, including at least eight Democrats. The “second bill” would presumably deal with some of the regulatory underpinnings of the Affordable Care Act that could not (or at least were not) included in the special budget-reconciliation bill that is the vehicle for the American Health Care Act, a.k.a. “Trumpcare.” That might include items like modifying the prohibition on denial of insurance for those with preexisting conditions, or perhaps preempting state health-care regulations in order to set up interstate insurance sales. It is conservative Republicans who are most eager for this chore to get done, so that the ground beneath the hated Obamacare can be plowed and salted once and for all. Why any Senate Democrats, much less eight of them, would vote for such a bill is a mystery to me. And according to an Examiner source in the meeting, it was a mystery to everyone else, too.
The conservative meeting attendee said he advised Trump that the second health-care bill, which will need to attract even more votes to survive than the one struggling to gain traction on Capitol Hill now, will take far longer to become law than the president may like.
“I told him to have [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell jump in and get the vote scheduled. He kind of looked at me when I said that, digested it, and the staff kind of jumped in,” the attendee said. “Honestly, I think the real timetable … is a few months later when it sinks in that Obamacare has been repealed and Democrats might be willing to cut a deal of some sort.”
Trump was not reported to have responded to this advice, and it’s anybody’s guess as to whether he had any earthly idea what the “conservative meeting attendee” was talking about. You do have to wonder if those present looked at each other with bewilderment, perhaps wishing someone had brought along hand puppets or a School House Rock video. If Trump is indeed going to force Republicans and Democrats alike to get a signature health-care bill through Congress before his allies turn to appropriations and tax cuts, his own learning curve needs to accelerate big league.