Initially, President Trump articulated his support for the GOP’s American Health Care Act, thinking, maybe, that it would be enough to get Republican Congressional members solidly in support of the bill.
It didn’t work. Instead, a discordant squabble broke out.
The Donald, however, had a Trump card to play. He played it. And it’s bound to work a treat.
But we’re getting ahead of the story, so first things first:
Monday’s release of the legislation follows weeks of negotiations among Republican lawmakers and senior Trump administration officials. President Trump gave the bill a boost on Twitter, but the White House notably declined to explicitly endorse it. “Today marks an important step toward restoring health-care choices and affordability back to the American people,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. “President Trump looks forward to working with both chambers of Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.” The president leaned in a bit more enthusiastically on Tuesday morning: “Our wonderful new healthcare bill is now out for review and negotiation,” he tweeted.
Yet what at least one conservative, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, seized on was not Trump’s praise of the proposal but his suggestion that it was up for negotiation. “It won’t work,” Paul said Tuesday morning on Fox and Friends, continuing a crusade against the bill before it came out. Calling the legislation “Obamacare Lite,” the former presidential contender said its replacement of the individual mandate with a premium payment to insurers a “bailout for the insurance companies” that was unconstitutional. “I think it’ll be a real mistake to go for this,” Paul said. “It won’t pass, and conservatives won’t take it.”
President Trump responded by reminding them of the cardinal rule of political life guaranteed to get their immediate undivided attention: Don’t piss off the voters whose support you need for reelection.
Which is what he, Trump, will make sure happens in the case of any Republican Congressional member who votes against the bill:
President Trump has told Republican leaders that he’s prepared to play hardball with congressional conservatives to pass the GOP healthcare bill, including by supporting the 2018 primary challengers of any Republican who votes against the bill.
Sources told the Washington Examiner that Trump made that threat in a White House meeting on Tuesday with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and other members of the House GOP whip team that helps line up votes.
Trump’s threat is one that could resonate. Most of the Republicans who oppose the GOP’s American Health Care Act represent ruby red districts that strongly support Trump and his agenda.
Therefore, they could be the most susceptible to a midterm primary challenge, especially if Trump tells those voters that their member of Congress is blocking him from fulfilling his promise to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law.
That’s The Donald’s “You’re Fired” Trump card.