Trump will take health­care credit or cast blame

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

If con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans suc­ceed in re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing the Obama-era health law, ex­pect a big Rose Gar­den cel­e­bra­tion with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tak­ing credit. If they fail? Trump has al­ready in­di­cated he will hold Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell re­spon­si­ble, set­ting up an in­tra­party blame game that could be dev­as­tat­ing for the GOP. “Af­ter all of th­ese years of suf­fer­ing thru Oba­maCare, Repub­li­can Se­na­tors must come through as they have promised!”Trump said in a tweet early Fri­day while in Paris.

Trump has made it clear that the onus for de­liv­er­ing a ma­jor Repub­li­can achieve­ment and ful­fill­ing seven years of those prom­ises is on the six-term Ken­tucky sen­a­tor, who is bat­tle-hard­ened by leg­isla­tive ne­go­ti­at­ing - and not on the pres­i­dent and au­thor of “The Art of the Deal”. “Mitch has to pull it off. He’s work­ing very hard. He’s got to pull it off,” Trump said in an in­ter­view for the Chris­tian Broad­cast­ing Net­work’s “The 700 Club.” Trump has cast him­self as a by­stander in the month­s­long process. “I will be at my desk, pen in hand!” he tweeted Fri­day as he de­scribed the wait to sign a bill eras­ing much of for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s 2010 law. Trump is re­mind­ing GOP law­mak­ers who promised so of­ten to re­peal and re­place, and voted re­peat­edly but never fi­nally to do it, that they bet­ter not blow this best shot. And if they do, “I will be very an­gry about it, and a lot of peo­ple will be very up­set,” the pres­i­dent has said.

Af­ter bro­ker­ing deals with in­di­vid­ual law­mak­ers be­fore a health­care bill barely made it through the House in May, Trump has largely stayed on the side­lines as the Se­nate has dealt with the is­sue. That’s partly be­cause McCon­nell had made his pref­er­ence clear that Trump keep out of Se­nate busi­ness, ac­cord­ing to associates. Trump has mostly ac­ceded to the re­quest, partly be­cause McCon­nell had earned his re­spect by shep­herd­ing con­ser­va­tive ju­rist Neil Gor­such to Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion in April. That still stands as Trump’s most sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment since tak­ing of­fice.

But McCon­nell’s stew­ard­ship of the health­care is­sue has proved less adroit. He had to abruptly can­cel a vote last month on a bill he drafted largely in se­cret af­ter it be­came clear sup­port was lack­ing. He’s now strug­gling to nail down votes to pass the lat­est ver­sion next week. The pres­i­dent has shown some pa­tience with McCon­nell’s predica­ment, telling re­porters on Air Force One on the way to France that “the only thing more dif­fi­cult than peace be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans is health­care.” He then re­peated his con­fi­dence in a suc­cess­ful out­come.

But he has de­liv­ered no ma­jor speech in six months on health­care ei­ther be­fore Congress or out­side Wash­ing­ton, ad­dress­ing it only in a few tweets and a cou­ple of asides at ral­lies in Iowa and else­where. Pressed on what the pres­i­dent is do­ing to se­cure the votes for the Se­nate bill, White House aide Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said the ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­vided “tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance through­out the process”. In com­par­i­son, Obama ag­gres­sively used the bully pul­pit of the pres­i­dency to se­cure pas­sage of his Af­ford­able Care Act, with at least five town halls in Wis­con­sin, Ohio, Colorado and Vir­ginia, prime-time speeches to Congress, health­care sum­mits at the White House and else­where, and per­sonal lob­by­ing of law­mak­ers.

GOP law­mak­ers in­sist that Trump has been help­ful, though some­times they’ve strug­gled to de­pict ex­actly how. But his dis­tance from the process could help him to avoid blame if fail­ure is the out­come. And now, Trump’s words sig­nal that if Congress fails, law­mak­ers can ex­pect his wrath and that of his fol­low­ers - a rel­a­tive mi­nor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion but an im­por­tant slice of the GOP base that has the abil­ity to pun­ish Repub­li­cans who cross the pres­i­dent. In last year’s elec­tions, the two ma­jor Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­dates who lost their races, then-Sen Kelly Ay­otte of New Hamp­shire and Rep Joe Heck of Ne­vada, did so af­ter with­draw­ing their sup­port from Trump. Win­ning Repub­li­cans stuck with him.

For many GOP law­mak­ers, the great­est fear is not a Demo­cratic op­po­nent but a pri­mary chal­lenge from the right. Repub­li­can Sen Jeff Flake of Ari­zona, who was one of Trump’s most out­spo­ken crit­ics through­out last year’s cam­paign, has grown much qui­eter about the pres­i­dent as he faces re-elec­tion next year and a pri­mary op­po­nent who has em­braced Trump and taunted Flake for his stances. Now Flake is look­ing like a likely “yes” vote on the health­care bill. He said Thurs­day he was still con­sid­er­ing it, but he ap­plauded in­clu­sion of an amend­ment by con­ser­va­tive Sen Ted Cruz of Texas that would al­low in­sur­ers to sell skimpy, low-cost health­care. “I like the con­sumer free­dom amend­ment in it, you’ve got to get re­lief to Ari­zo­nans that just don’t have in­sur­ance,” Flake said.

Most Repub­li­cans say that even though the GOP’s health­care bills have polled poorly, and they will be forced to de­fend yank­ing in­sur­ance cov­er­age from mil­lions, a worse re­sult would be fail­ing to re­peal. That would un­der­mine the GOP’s abil­ity to present it­self as a gov­ern­ing party, while break­ing seven years of prom­ises. The Repub­li­can in the White House might be able to dodge the fin­ger­point­ing that would surely fol­low. But he might be the only one. “I think the whole party is go­ing to be re­spon­si­ble so ev­ery­one with that la­bel is prob­a­bly go­ing to have to bear re­spon­si­bil­ity no mat­ter what they go home and claim,” said con­ser­va­tive for­mer Sen Jim DeMint. — AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.