Could’ve fooled his own allies. After getting pushback from Republicans on Capitol Hill over his sudden and unexpected pivot to health care, Donald Trump took to Twitter for the second straight day to deny he had any plans to fight ObamaCare this year. Trump pledges to replace ObamaCare, “but only after the Election when we take back the House etc”:
I was never planning a vote prior to the 2020 Election on the wonderful HealthCare package that some very talented people are now developing for me & the Republican Party. It will be on full display during the Election as a much better & less expensive alternative to ObamaCare…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2019
…This will be a great campaign issue. I never asked Mitch McConnell for a vote before the Election as has been incorrectly reported (as usual) in the @nytimes, but only after the Election when we take back the House etc. Republicans will always support pre-existing conditions!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2019
Why make the same declaration two days in a row? Last night, The Hill reported that Mitch McConnell went to Trump to get him to ixnay on the ealthcare-hay. It was that phone conversation, McConnell told reporters yesterday, that prompted Trump’s public retreat:
McConnell rejected a request from President Trump last week that Republican lawmakers prepare a comprehensive package, ending the debate and attempting to protect GOP senators up for reelection next year.
McConnell delivered the message to Trump in a phone conversation Monday afternoon.
“We had a good conversation yesterday afternoon, and I pointed out to him the Senate Republicans’ view on dealing with comprehensive health care reform with a Democratic House of Representatives,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.
“I made clear to him that we were not going to be doing that in the Senate,” McConnell said. “He did say, as he later tweeted, that he accepted that and he would be developing a plan that he would take to the American people during the 2020 campaign.”
Capitol Hill interventions on policy have become more necessary after Democrats took control of the House, the Washington Post reported this morning. Trump’s lack of discipline and strategic thinking has had Republican allies in Congress reeling, and their leaders have taken more of an assertive role in focusing Trump:
Trump surprised Republicans last week with a new pledge to replace the Affordable Care Act, only to backtrack Tuesday after being confronted with the realities of another all-consuming fight over President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law on Capitol Hill.
Trump has also sent aides and a large part of the federal bureaucracy scrambling to respond to his expansive vow to close the entire U.S.-Mexico border this week unless “ALL illegal immigration” is halted by Mexico. Alarmed lawmakers and business leaders warned that any such move would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy, and administration officials signaled Tuesday that they were seeking more-limited options to address a surge in migration at the border.
Even efforts on which the White House has worked closely with congressional GOP leaders have seen setbacks, such as a massive disaster funding bill that stalled Monday amid partisan sniping over aid to Puerto Rico. Trump has inflamed the fight by repeatedly denigrating the island’s leadership and implying that Puerto Rico — a U.S. territory — is separate from the United States.
The battles illustrate the difficulties Trump and Republicans have had in adjusting to Democratic control of the House after two years of uncontested GOP power in Congress and the White House. But many Republicans say they have adapted to the pandemonium — learning to privately sway Trump by warning him of the consequences of his policy declarations, many of which are launched in late-night or early-morning tweets.
The ObamaCare challenge couldn’t have come at a better time for Democrats. They were reeling from the Ilhan Omar scandals and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ socialist cheerleading, and didn’t foresee Joe Biden walking into a #MeToo buzzsaw. They needed a change of narrative in their favor. Even though the media would have eventually given an assist by bringing up healthcare, Trump threw Pelosi a lifeline by refocusing attention on Democrats’ winning 2018 issue.
Will the DoJ back off its court challenge to ObamaCare, though? It seems doubtful, as it pursues a legitimate line of argument about the law’s constitutionality. The Supreme Court can’t punt any longer by pretending it’s a taxation issue, either. It will take at least until next year to force it to that level, though, and it might take until after the election. If the White House keeps a low profile on the effort, they can avoid provoking it into a crisis with voters. Until the Supreme Court overturns it, though, there’s no point in having Republicans publicly propose replacements, because Trump can’t possibly get the votes now to repeal ObamaCare.
So yes, this intervention made a lot of sense. And if Trump has sense, he’ll keep mentions of ObamaCare to a minimum, especially while Democrats are self-immolating on anti-Semitism and socialism.