Donald Trump is being very poorly served by at least one of his most senior advisors, and it is not difficult to tell which one.
Yesterday the president tweeted out a threat to members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, warning them that they had to get on board with his agenda or else.
This was his second warning to the HFC after the joke of an Obamacare “repeal and replace” bill went down in flames last week. But HFC members are actually among his strongest supporters, and most closely represent the “forgotten men and women” that President Trump addressed when he promised to “never, ever let you down.”
Those “forgotten” are the base that elected him, and to attack the HFC reflects not only a lack of judgment but a misunderstanding of HFC’s role in blocking that awful health care legislation.
So where is he getting such bad advice?
The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
Dubbed “Ryancare” after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the bill was developed in secret by House leadership and only a short window for consideration by members of Congress was allowed. Take it or leave it because this is the best you’re going to get, was the sales pitch.
Recalling then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) infamous statement that lawmakers would have to pass Obamacare to find out what’s in it, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) said, “In my district, right now there’s a lot of misunderstanding as to what it is we’re doing. And once we get it done, and then we can have the chance to really explain it.”
HFC has been roundly and unfairly blamed for the health care bill’s failure.
But the truth is that the plan only had 17 percent support among Americans, according to polling. And the legislation had so little backing among House Republicans that it could not have passed. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) said the measure “is not as good as or better” than the current Obamacare law.
In the end, Speaker Ryan, never a Trump fan, tried to save face by pulling it from the floor before it could be voted on. If he had let the vote move forward, the anemic support among Republicans would have been dramatically exposed. Instead, he was able to shift the blame to the HFC, and in the process, try to marginalize them politically.
ABC News reported that Ryan shares Trump’s frustration with the HFC, and that he has been pushing members of Congress to keep working to reach a consensus on a bill. However, my sources tell me that Ryan has shut the HFC out of further discussions and told the “Tuesday Group” of liberal and moderate Republican legislators not to meet with them.
Ryan’s longtime friend and White House ally, former RNC chairman Reince Priebus, has been publicly denouncing the HFC ever since Ryan withdrew the bill. On Chris Wallace’s “Fox News Sunday,” Priebus mocked them, wondering how self-described conservatives could possibly oppose a bill that defunded Planned Parenthood:
“You look at the fact that we were almost to the point where we would be defunding Planned Parenthood, or we were to the point where we were defunding Planned Parenthood. The fact that some of these members took that and decided not to move forward with it I think is a real shame and I think the president is disappointed in the number of people that he thought were loyal to him that weren’t.”
Of course Priebus almost certainly knows the bill did no such thing. HFC member Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) rightly pointed out in a tweet that it was nothing more than a “bait and switch” con.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 26, 2017
Page 23 of the CBO report makes clear that funding for Planned Parenthood is only suspended for one year, leading off with the following sentence: “Provision Affecting Planned Parenthood. For a one-year period following enactment, the legislation would prevent federal funds from being made available…”
So Ryancare, or as some call it, RINOcare, defunded Planned Parenthood for only one year. Once the bill had passed, and people had forgotten about it, federal funding for the Left’s favorite human body parts-trading cartel would have quietly resumed.
And that’s not the only “bait and switch” in the doomed legislation.
Despite the “repeal and replace” narrative floated by House leadership and the White House, Ryancare would have retained the very worst elements of Obamacare. It keeps most of the coverage mandates, and anyone who allowed his insurance to lapse for more than 63 days would pay a penalty equal to 30 percent of their insurance premium. For most people that would be a much higher fine than Obamacare required for those who choose to remain uninsured.
And House conservatives are supposed to be the real villains here?
The bill did not fail because the HFC blocked it. It failed because it was a lousy bill — more moderates opposed it than conservatives.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus should be praised for doing what they could to fix it, because once passed, its many flaws would have been blamed on President Trump.
HFC member Raul Labrador said it best in a March 30 tweet addressed to the president (that has since disappeared): “Freedom Caucus stood with [you] when others ran. Remember who your real friends are. We’re trying to help [you] succeed.”
There seems to be a dichotomy developing in the White House, with establishment loyalist Reince Priebus angling for influence with Trump on behalf of his friend, Paul Ryan, while real conservatives within the administration are getting shut out of important deliberations.
One can only hope this is not true, because the promises that President Trump made to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. are perilously close to being betrayed.