President Trump couldn’t have been clearer: He and his water carrier in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan, had the votes, and their draconian plan to replace Obamacare was a shoo-in.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pressed the point at every presser. “There’s no Plan B,” he insisted. “Only Plan A.” Meaning it was this GOP, soak-the-poor-and-salve-the-rich healthcare plan or nothing.
That’s the Dealer-in-Chief’s way of negotiating: making threats. Especially when the talks are breaking down. In this case, it was because nobody really liked the deal.
Not the Democrats, who thought it was too harsh on poorer and older Americans and would force 24-million people to lose coverage. And not the most conservative of House Republicans, the Freedom Caucus wing, who didn’t think it was harsh enough — and who had the power to kill the bill.
On Thursday, Trump and Spicer were still saying they had the votes — or at least, that the House vote was trending their way. Just in case, though, Trump advised wavering Republicans, in effect: “Stick with me or else.”
Thursday night, Trump explained the “or else”: If this bill fails, he’ll keep Obamacare in place. So much for his pledge, repeated ad nauseam, to “repeal and replace” it.
And so much for Trump’s threat to House Republicans. By mid-day Friday, Ryan’s was rushing to the White House to tell his boss their bill was a lost cause.
And by the end of the day, with Trump’s okay, Ryan had pulled the bill from the House floor.
So did the President do the honest thing and admit defeat? Not exactly. He called reporters to the White House, where he told them the GOP plan’s defeat was “the best thing that could have happened,” that he had called for its defeat all along, and that it was the Democrats — not the Republicans’ Freedom Caucus — who killed the bill.
The best response to this came from Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)