Most Republicans (including Trump administration figures like HHS Secretary Tom Price and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney) are energetically trashing the Congressional Budget Office “scoring” of the American Health Care Act. But the White House’s diehard supporters at Breitbart News are touting the bad numbers as fresh grounds for its on-again-off-again crusade against House Speaker Paul Ryan, and are all but begging Trump and his congressional allies to dump not only “Ryan’s plan,” but Ryan himself.
In the days before the CBO score came out, Breitbart was featuring conservative attacks on AHCA, most notably in an interview with Sarah Palin wherein the author of the “death panel” smear of Obamacare called the new bill “RINO-Care” and “socialized medicine.” It greeted the score itself with a brief news story leading with this: “The Congressional Budget Office report states that 14 million people will lose insurance in 2018 under the Ryan plan, while 24 million would lose insurance by 2026” — where GOP loyalists tended to play up cost savings. But the site formerly overseen by presidential strategist Stephen Bannon quickly followed with a Neil Munro piece extensively quoting Republican heretic David Frum predicting that “[t]he failed rollout of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s unpopular healthcare bill has weakened his hold on the Speakership.” Incidentally, Frum, identified not inaccurately by Munro as “a champion for pro-American immigration and labor policies,” has used about every term of abuse in the dictionary for Donald Trump.
If there was any remaining doubt that Breitbart wanted to tie AHCA around Ryan’s neck and send him to the bottom of the Potomac River, it was removed by the choice of this particular day to release an audiotape made last October of the Speaker distancing himself from his party’s presidential nominee after the Access Hollywood video came out:
“I am not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future,” Ryan says in the audio, obtained by Breitbart News and published here for the first time ever.
The remark was reported at the time, but the audio is new, and the timing of its release speaks to the nakedness of Breitbart’s animus.
The $64,000 question, of course, is whether Breitbart’s continued campaign against Ryan and AHCA in any way reflects the views of its White House alumni (including not only Bannon but Julia Hahn, sometimes called “Bannon’s Bannon,” who together wrote one piece on Ryan that all but called him a traitor), or their chief patron in the Oval Office. As Axios speculated this morning, one path forward for Trump is to “throw Paul Ryan under the bus” and come up with a new bill that conservatives like and that somehow avoids “Ryancare’s” bad press. If that were to happen, it seems like a safe bet that there would be cheers in Breitbartland.