First, Lunch. Then, Crash And Burn
If Trump ever wanted to show off his deal making prowess, today’s the day. The President is inviting all 52 Republican Senators to lunch, in a last-ditch effort to revive an Obamacare repeal. But if that doesn’t work, he’ll opt for what he now says he wanted all along anyhow: letting Obamacare fail utterly, then waiting for Democrats to come crawling back, begging for a fix.
To us that’s tantamount to saying “I care more about me winning, than I care about people.”
And Trump, if he wants, could hasten Obamacare’s potential demise by cutting off cost-sharing subsidies to health insurance companies. The next monthly payment is scheduled for tomorrow. The Trump administration has been playing chicken with insurers on an almost monthly basis.
Meanwhile, Ezra Klein points out something on Vox that a lot of people are overlooking: the main reason the Obamacare repeal failed, is that Obamacare is working, especially for people that have been helped by Medicaid expansion, which is what Republicans went after most doggedly.
The Buck Definitely Does Not Stop Here
We counted: in his approximately 5 minutes of public comments, the President blames someone else, changes the subject, or says this is what he wanted all along 15 separate times (although he returns to several themes a lot), without giving a whiff of personal responsibility even 1 time.
A few key quotes:
• “I’m not gonna own it.”
• “I was sitting in the Oval Office…pen in hand, waiting to sign something.”
• “I’ve been saying that for a long time: let Obamacare fail, it’ll be a lot easier.”
It’s worth watching the whole thing:
“I Didn’t Come Here To Hurt People”
Those words from moderate West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, explaining why she couldn’t support a repeal of Obamacare without a replacement. Capito was considered “on the fence” about the replacement bill anyway, but never had to take a stand (or not) as two far-right Senators beat her to the punch.
Not long after the word “repeal” without replacement showed up on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, and President Trump’s Twitter accounts, Capito was jointed by Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski in saying they would oppose that approach, tanking it before it gained any real momentum at all. They were eventually joined by Ohio Senator Rob Portman.
Going Forward, Options Have Changed Dramatically. What Are They Now?
Let’s do a quick check-in. Assuming Trump doesn’t get everybody back on track at lunchtime today, passage of a replacement bill, or repeal with no replacement both appear to be off the table. So here’s what’s on it:
• Republicans do nothing; move on to other things. As we mentioned above, that leaves it up to the President whether to keep paying cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies, or stop and allow Obamacare to “explode” (as he loves to say). The end game in this scenario, according to the President, is Democrats come groveling, begging him to help. Also now, according to the President, it’s what he wanted all along.
• Republicans start working with Democrats now on measures to shore up insurance marketplaces, but not a whole new bill. This would go against the crash-and-burn approach the President says he favors, but Senate Majority Leader McConnell has raised this possibility several times, even before it became clear the Senate’s health care bill would collapse.
• Republicans start working with Democrats now on a brand new bill. While House and Senate leadership are already moving on to the budget, tax reform and other things, this is a unique opportunity that may have a very short window. To this end, moderate Republicans and Centrist Democrats are already meeting. In most cases, that wouldn’t make much of a difference absent support of leadership and/or the President. But there may be a rare opportunity here if they can come up with something good, and relatively quickly, to force the issue by taking their case directly to the public.
Trump So Angry (Or So In Need Of A “Win”) He Almost Kills Iran Nukes Deal
Trump (and he’s not alone) has never been fond of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. (In fact, he’s called it “the worst deal ever.”) And Bloomberg reports the day after his big health care win evaporated, he came very close to pulling the plug by refusing to confirm Iran is in compliance with the deal, something the White House has to do periodically.
According to the Bloomberg story, Trump was talked out of it, for now, by his Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, who pointed out the deal with Iran was front-loaded, so Iran’s already got most of what it’s getting. From that perspective, pulling out would simply free up Iran not to comply with its end of the deal.
The U.S. did slap some new sanctions on Iran.
Trump Had Second, Secret Meeting With Putin At G20, Then Calls It “Sick” Media Is Calling Him Out On It
On the face of it, we’re inclined to agree with Trump (although not his choice of words): he’s President, he can have meetings, formal or informal, private or otherwise, with whatever world leader he wants. The way he describes it, all that happened is he and Putin peeled off from a scheduled dinner for an unscheduled chit-chat.
However, Trump ignores a highly significant detail: he went alone. Putin brought his translator. Trump’s people explain his translator that night did not speak Russian. (Note to self: if staffing a Trump event, always have Russian translator.) Still, it’s highly unusual not to include someone to commemorate this type of conversation.
8th Person In The Room With Trump Jr.
The New York Times reports the latest entry on the expanding roster of people participating in the Trump Jr. meeting with a Russian lawyer is Irakly Kaveladze, a Russian-born American citizen. He’s well-known as a “fixer” for Russians in the U.S., and has been connected to money laundering, though never charged. According to the Times, he’s already been contacted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office for an interview.