Slack Chat: How Paul Ryan bungled his own ambush

T: Hey John, get inside Paul Ryan’s head. Why are they in such a hurry to pass the health care repeal? Is there some deadline they are trying to outrun?

J: My guess is because there are other legislative priorities; the government runs out of money on April 28, so they have to at least get started on the budget before then. Plus which there’s tax reform, and immigration, and the infrastructure bill… so yes, even this early in the session, the clock is ticking.

The cynical side of me says they’re trying to push this garbage barge through congress, knowing that it will fail in the Senate. That way they can say “we tried; it’s the Senate’s fault that we couldn’t get it done.”

T: At this point, do they pretty much want to keep Obamacare and blame the repeal’s failure on the liberals?

J: There are a few hardcore Tea Partiers in the House who want to repeal Obamacare; but I think that given the choice, most congressmen would rather tweak Obamacare to make it work better. Since Trump ran on a platform of repealing it, though, they’re stuck at least pretending to try.

Obamacare could be improved fairly easily, but again, the GOP is stuck, having promised repeal for the last seven years. Their base would see anything less as a betrayal, even if it means that their insurance goes up 750 percent.

T: It’s a strange brew, isn’t it? Trump lives in a Manhattan tower, but he’s basically just a rich redneck from Queens who hates the cultural elites because they make him feel inferior. Rural conservatives are attracted to him because he hates the elitist crowd as much as they do, so they will follow his lead, even if he directs them into an active volcano.

J: It is a strange brew… a billionaire running as a “man of the people” and the people actually buying it.

Some of them, anyway.

T: If you were Paul Ryan, and you actually wanted to fix this mess, how would you approach health care?

Assume you have to start exactly where it is today, with the current bill out there and all the surrounding hoopla and other stuff floating around.

J: If I was Ryan, and actually wanted to fix healthcare rather than just send over a Trojan-horse bill for the Senate to sink and be the fall guys for, I would withdraw this bill and go back to committee; I would rewrite the bill to strip out the most offensive positions, extend the Medicaid subsidy wean-off period to five or six years, strip out anything to do with Medicare, and put back the 3-1 age rating limit. That bill wouldn’t pass the House, it isn’t conservative enough, but at least it would be a framework for negotiations. But I don’t think Ryan is seriously interested in reform. He’s looking for political cover from his right flank.

T: Looking forward, what scenarios you can see? For instance, if the bill never gets passed in any form, does the GOP lose the Senate in 2018? The House?

J: I think the GOP may very well lose the House anyway. The Democrats only need about 28 seats to take control and midterm elections historically have not been kind to the president’s party. That would be a crippling blow to Trump… any of his agenda that hasn’t passed will go nowhere.

It’ll be gridlock all over again.

T: I’ll settle for gridlock. The only executive action Trump knows how to do is to point his middle finger at Obama.

This just came across the wire:

U.S. House Republicans are working on changes to their healthcare overhaul bill to provide more generous tax credits for older Americans and to add a work requirement for the Medicaid program for the poor –  U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Sunday.

J: It doesn’t really change my earlier assessment, Ryan is giving with one hand (the break for seniors) and taking away with the other (the work requirement for Medicaid). I still don’t think he’s serious about passing this bill; if he were he wouldn’t have included the work requirement, that’s a sop to conservatives that won’t pass muster in the Senate.

T: Was there any way he could have presented this, or any other bill that would have passed through all the various cliques in the GOP?

J: Honestly, I doubt it. The GOP is, to coin a phrase, on the horns of an enema. I don’t think any bill that is conservative enough to pass the house will pass the Senate, and no bill that is moderate enough to pass the Senate will get through the House.=

Trump and his base think the GOP majority can do whatever it wants; while that’s theoretically true, Ryan knows the reality of the situation. He is trying to give the house republican caucus cover for the bill’s inevitable failure in the Senate.

T: How connected is Trump to the Legislature? Is he just golfing and signing whatever Steve Bannon sticks under his nose – Henry Blake in a $10,000 suit, with Bannon as Radar – or is he calling Congress at all hours, driving Ryan nuts?

J: I don’t think he’s connected at all. I think Ryan is running the legislative agenda; all Trump is doing is putting his name on things, not unlike what he does with his businesses.

T: It’s fun, watching the president’s people all trying to act governmental, given what a bunch of Beverly Hillbillies most of them are. I’d be tempted to root for them, if they weren’t such a bunch of assholes.

J: It’s turned out to be every bit the gong show I expected it would be… they’ve certainly lived up to their advance billing.

T: Who gets to finally gong them off? Will it be the Russians? The Trump family tax returns? Will Trump try to blow up North Korea and have the button taken away? Will Melanie turn out to be a Russian plant? Will Trump die of a gas-induced stroke after trying to eat an entire bucket of KFC boneless honey barbecue wings?

Film at 11.