Analysis. Senate health care failure another blow to Trump.
WASHINGTON» The inability of Senate Republicans to agree on a measure to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law is another blow to Donald Trump’s still-young but embattled presidency.
The president took to Twitter shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pulled the measure after the third and fourth GOP senators announced their opposition — two more than he could spare. Trump’s message in a late-night tweet and then one on Tuesday morning was forward-looking.
The House appeared prepared to quickly take up the Senate leadership bill for a vote that likely would have propelled it to Trump’s desk. But Trump’s inability to help McConnell and Co. find 50 Republican votes comes as the White House is dealing with declining approval ratings, including in key swing counties that helped him upset Democrat Hillary Clinton, as well as an escalating scandal involving the Russian government and some of his top campaign aides, including Donald Trump Jr. and sonin-law Jared Kushner.
Trump, as he has for months despite supporting different House and Senate GOP health bills, wrote that his party “should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!”
The president started Tuesday by tweeting for all to “stay tuned” on health care, returning to what long has appeared his gut instincts about how to ditch Obama’s law and replace it with a Trump-GOP plan: “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan.”
The president has advised members of his party for some time that perhaps that might be the most politically advantageous path for Republicans, forcing Democrats to compromise on an overhaul plan. Some experts, however, doubt that approach would work, largely because Republicans and Democrats have such fundamentally different views about health care policy.
Since the Senate took up its health overhaul effort in May, Trump has been — publicly, at least — a less visible presence than he was during the House effort. Aides explained that Trump was using a softer touch and tone because he has realized the Senate is a different animal than the House, where there were more potential deals to cut and Republican cats to herd.
The president’s own words and tweets during the Senate’s process to fashion a bill — which often seemed to contradict those of his communications, policy and legislative affairs shops — appeared to reveal a chief executive eager to leave some space between himself and whatever McConnell and his top deputies could piece together.
If they could craft a measure capable to garner 50 votes — with Vice President Mike Pence casting the decisive 51st — Trump and his top aides made clear he would sign it. After all, the businessmanturned-president who promised voters so much “winning” they would plead with him “we can’t take it anymore, we can’t win anymore like this,” is in need of a major early term legislative victory.
Trump’s thirst for victories over any clear ideological philosophy was on display in another Tuesday morning tweet. He wrote that Republicans have “only a very small majority” in both chambers and therefore “need more victories next year since Dems totally obstruct, no votes!” That was an apparent warning to GOP members that they could be wiped out in the 2018 midterm elections unless they find ways to start passing legislation.
Yet Trump never seemed that thrilled with the House bill, which he reportedly called “mean,” just the victorious vote. The same appeared true of the Senate bill, as his out-of-place comment during a July 27 meeting with most GOP senators at the White House showed.
“This will be great if we get it done,” he said that day. “And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like — and that’s OK. I understand that very well.”
Still, however, the president did have at least partial ownership of the Senate bill. Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson last week “I will be very angry” if GOP senators failed to strike a deal on the Senate measure. “Mitch has to pull it off.”
And Democrats reacted quickly to try to tie Trump to the Senate failure.