Speaker Paul Ryan made some extraordinary statements on today’s CBS This Morning – even for him. First, he chastised President Trump for offering to work with Democrats on health care reform, saying it was “hardly a conservative thing” to do. The reason: “Democrats are not for repealing Obamacare. We are.” Clinging to ideology over reality, Ryan declared, “I don’t want government running healthcare.” Oh really? Has he heard of a program called Medicare? Oh, that’s right – he wants to privatize it. Ryan hasn’t gotten around to turning Medicare into a voucher program just yet, but at least seniors can rest easier knowing that the GOP health plan went down in flames.
Less than a week later, a rift seems to be opening between the President and the Speaker on this issue. President Trump may have finally realized that the only way to get a real healthcare fix through Congress is to work with Democrats and stop coddling right-wingers in the House. He even fired off a tweet this morning aimed squarely at the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, which helped defeat the Republican plan:
“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them… in 2018!” – Trump Tweet, 3/30/17
Of course, Democrats won’t work with Trump unless he gives up on repealing Obamacare and pivots toward fixing its flaws. That’s something Ryan and the House Republicans have refused to do during the entire seven years that Obamacare has been “the law of the land.” In fact, Republicans have taken measures both on the Hill (and in the new Trump White House) to actively undermine the law. Trump’s offers to work with Democrats won’t mean much unless his HHS Secretary and his administration refrain from manipulating regulations to stifle Obamacare.
This afternoon, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) told CNN, “[Obamacare] needs to be modified to give more people coverage. If Trump wants to do that, I’m all for working with him.”
It’s hard to believe, but in this case Trump – not Ryan – may be taking the more politically savvy approach. Here’s why: the American people by and large loathe the defeated GOP healthcare bill. A new Associated Press poll indicates 62% of Americans dislike the dead GOP legislation. Here’s an even more eye-opening number: 8 in 10 Republicans oppose the provision that would have allowed insurers to charge seniors 5 times as much as younger people. President Trump’s spider sense has told him to move toward the middle on health care. Meanwhile, Paul Ryan threatens to bring the moribund GOP healthcare bill back to life. He would be wise to study those poll numbers and let sleeping bills lie.