Trump attacks on McConnell bring rebukes from fellow Republicans

In demeaning tweets and public statements, Trump blamed McConnell (Ky.), who remains popular among GOP senators, for the party’s inability to muscle through an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act. The president also urged McConnell to “get back to work” on that and other campaign promises, including cutting taxes and spurring new infrastructure spending.

.. Trump associates said the attacks, which began Wednesday night and resumed Thursday, were intended to shore up Trump’s outside-the-Beltway populist credentials and would resonate with core supporters frustrated by a lack of progress in Washington.

.. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), a Trump adviser, said on Fox News Channel that the president bears some responsibility for the Republican failure on the health-care legislation.

.. Even some Republicans close to the president suggested that the attacks on McConnell would hurt him on Capitol Hill, where relations with GOP leaders have seriously frayed as Trump’s agenda has stalled.

.. “Discerning a particular strategy or goal from these tweets is hard,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee communications director and a former Capitol Hill staff member. “It just doesn’t help enact any part of his agenda, and it sends a further troubling sign to Capitol Hill Republicans already wary of the White House.”

.. McConnell has been one of the most steadfast supporters of Trump’s agenda in Congress, and, at least publicly, Trump has had a smoother relationship with McConnell than he has with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and other congressional leaders.

.. In April, McConnell orchestrated the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, changing the Senate rules so that Democrats could not block the nomination. The Gorsuch confirmation is Trump’s largest victory on Capitol Hill.

.. Politico first reported that Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund billionaire heavily involved in Trump’s political ascendancy, is making a donation to a group supporting former Arizona state senator Kelli Ward, who is challenging Flake in a Republican primary next year.

.. However, inside the White House, Trump has a collection of advisers who have had antagonistic relationships with McConnell and Senate GOP leaders.

  • Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, came from Breitbart, a news organization that regularly antagonized McConnell’s leadership team.
  • Stephen Miller, chief policy adviser to Trump, was not considered an ally to the Senate leader’s staff when Miller was a top adviser to Jeff Sessions (Ala.) in the Senate.
  • .. Moreover, one of Trump’s top legislative affairs advisers is Paul Teller, who served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s top aide during a period when the Texas Republican accused McConnell of lying about trade legislation.
  • And Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Trump’s budget director, was a constant critic of the Senate during his three terms in the House, regularly opposing fiscal compromise deals that McConnell brokered with the Obama White House.

The Limits of Bullying

Trump’s opponents have often been accused of naïveté for their appeals to norms and civility. But early Friday morning, at least, that faith was rewarded.

After Donald Trump implied Ted Cruz’s wife was ugly and accused his father of helping to kill President John F. Kennedy, Cruz still worked the phones for him. Trump humiliated “liddle” Marco Rubio, who endorsed Trump anyway. Trump implied Ben Carson was a child molester, and then appointed him to his cabinet. Trump ran a campaign in which he exhorted audiences to call for Hillary Clinton’s imprisonment, and she showed up to his inauguration. Trump rose to prominence by questioning whether the first black president was even American, and won the opportunity to destroy a huge part of that president’s legacy.

All of that made former First Lady Michelle Obama’s memorable line about going high when the other side goes low seem dangerously naive. Trump belittled, humiliated, threatened, and smeared his opponents (and sometimes his supporters) nearly every day since the beginning of his candidacy for president. His opponents appealed to precedent, to norms, to comity, and to decency. Today, Trump sits in the White House.

.. Then early on Friday morning, as the moment neared for a crucial vote on the last of the Republican proposals for repealing all or part of the Affordable Care Act neared, McCain went against his party. Along with Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, he denied the Republicans the bare majority they needed for a partial repeal

.. While it might have been a long shot given her earlier votes, Republicans might have still salvaged Murkowski’s support. But that chance was probably lost when the Trump administration threatened the entire state of Alaska to try to coerce her into backing repeal. By the wee hours of Friday morning, as Republican senators huddled around her trying to win their votes, it was too late.

Collins seemed opposed to full repeal from the beginning of this process. But if anything, Texas Republican Blake Farenthold’s threat to duel her solidified her position rather than weakening it.

.. At one point President Trump, who had mocked McCain’s capture, torture and imprisonmentduring the Vietnam War just a little more than two years ago, implored McCain to change his vote with a last-minute phone call.

.. And McCain himself seemed to relish the drama, telling reporters as he walked in for the final vote, “Watch the show.”

.. Had Democrats met that vote by attacking McCain, he might not have voted no last night. He might not have been so immune to the entreaties of his colleagues. He might not have resisted the arm-twisting of the president who never spent a day in public service before winning an election, who mocked him so cruelly two years ago.

.. While repeal supporters’ bullying might have solidified opposition to the bill, this time, Democrats’ comity almost certainly bought them goodwill among the Republicans they needed to flip. Eventually, people get sick of being bullied.

Maybe not most of the time, maybe even not much of the time. But every once in a while, going high instead of going low pays off.

Ted Cruz’s Giant Leap Into the Known

When it comes to health care, there are lies, damned lies, and CBO-bashing.

.. But the really big push over the next couple of days will be the attempt to trash CBO estimates that are almost sure to show massive losses, even if the CBO is somehow prevented from considering the Cruz amendment.

.. everyone, and I mean everyone, who knows something about insurance markets is declaring the same thing: that this proposed bill would be a disaster. We’ve got the insurance industry declaring it “simply unworkable”; the American Academy of Actuaries saying effectively the same thing; AARP up in arms; the Urban Institute forecasting disaster; and more.

..  Yes, it overestimated the number of people who would sign up for the exchanges. But this was largely because it overestimated the number of employers who would drop coverage and send their workers to the exchanges. Overall, its estimates of coverage gains and premiums weren’t that far off,

.. Trumpcare – or maybe we should call it Cruzcare – is a leap into the known. Before the ACA, most states allowed insurers to discriminate based on medical history. Many also restricted access to Medicaid as much as they could. So we have a very good idea what health care in America would look like if the BCRA passes: it would look like health care in unregulated, low-aid states pre-ACA.

Or to not put too fine a point on it, it would look like health care in Texas circa 2010, with 26 percent of the nonelderly population uninsured.

.. It would establish a system very much like that which existed in those parts of America in which vast numbers of people lacked coverage in the past; why would this time be different?

The Cruelty and Fraudulence of Mitch McConnell’s Health Bill

the bill would allow people to use tax-favored health savings accounts to pay insurance premiums. This effectively creates a big new tax shelter that mostly helps people with high incomes

.. So this is still a bill that takes from the poor to give to the rich; it just does so with extra stealth.

.. So how does he address the two big problems with the original bill —

  1. savage cuts to Medicaid and
  2. soaring premiums for older, less affluent workers?

He doesn’t.

.. The most important change in the bill, however, is the way it would effectively gut protection for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

.. the new Senate bill gives in to demands by Ted Cruz that insurers be allowed to offer skimpy plans that cover very little, with very high deductibles that would make them useless to most people.

.. The main answer, I’d argue, is that what would happen if this bill passes — a big decline in the number of Americans with health insurance, a sharp reduction in the quality of coverage for those who keep it — is what Republicans have wanted all along.

..  the Republican elite considered and still considers people on Medicaid, in particular, “takers” who are effectively stealing from the deserving rich.

And the conservative view has always been that Americans have health insurance that is too good, that they should pay more in deductibles and co-pays, giving them “skin in the game,” and thus an incentive to control costs.

.. So what we’re seeing here is supposed to be the last act in a long con, the moment when the fraudsters cash in, and their victims discover how completely they’ve been fooled. The only question is whether they’ll really get away with it. We’ll find out very soon.