HEALTH­CARE DEAL

Bill col­lapse shows strong-arm tac­tics don’t work, says ex­pert

New Straits Times - - World -

WASH­ING­TON

IN the end, the Closer couldn’t close the deal. For United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the col­lapse on Fri­day of his first leg­isla­tive pri­or­ity, a health­care re­form bill, was an em­bar­rass­ing loss of face.

It came af­ter he and his adIt min­is­tra­tion in­sisted up un­til the time of the vote by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives that there was enough Repub­li­can sup­port.

It brings into ques­tion the neo­phyte pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to move big-ticket leg­is­la­tion through Congress. And, for a celebrity busi­ness­man who brands him­self a deal-maker and fixer, it also casts doubt over his abil­ity to de­liver on his bold “drain-theswamp” prom­ises to shake up Wash­ing­ton.

The White House wants to ad­vance tax re­form and a mas­sive in­fras­truc­ture pack­age this year, but now it must ad­dress whether a change of ap­proach is needed and whether con­gres­sional al­lies, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, can be counted on to de­liver.

“This is the most con­se­quen­tial day of Trump’s pres­i­dency and it’s not just a fail­ure, it’s a stun­ning fail­ure,” Char­lie Sykes, an in­flu­en­tial Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and fre­quent Trump critic, tweeted.

Trump ap­peared to chalk up the loss in part to his own in­ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter House lead­ers pulled their bill to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare fol­low­ing de­fec­tions by both mod­er­ate and far-right Repub­li­can mem­bers who were un­moved by Trump’s ul­ti­ma­tum to vote for the plan or live with the cur­rent sys­tem.

“We learned a lot about loy­alty. We learned a lot about the vote-get­ting process,”

Trump said af­ter the bill was with­drawn, adding that he would move for­ward with other pri­or­i­ties.

was yet an­other set­back for an ad­min­is­tra­tion barely two months in of­fice that has seen its na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser re­sign, had its im­mi­gra­tion re­stric­tions struck down in courts and faces ques­tions about the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia.

Trump’s hall­mark sales­man­ship seemed to aban­don him last week. Al­though he fu­ri­ously courted the hard-line con­ser­va­tives op­posed to the re­form bill, they largely re­fused to yield, and in the process, he alien­ated mod­er­ates who ini­tially sup­ported the bill.

He then switched tac­tics and gave up try­ing to bring the con“This ser­va­tive op­po­nents into the fold, in­stead de­liv­er­ing an ul­ti­ma­tum that Repub­li­cans needed to back the bill. That did not work ei­ther.

Trump also failed to per­suade the Amer­i­can pub­lic that the bill was an im­prove­ment over the one it would have re­pealed and re­placed: the Af­ford­able Care Act — the sig­na­ture do­mes­tic achieve­ment of for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama. Polls showed the re­place­ment bill to be deeply un­pop­u­lar, and con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans com­plained that their of­fices were be­ing del­uged by calls from con­stituents op­pos­ing it.

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