Driving home this evening I was listening to Steele and Ungar on the Sirius XM POTUS channel. The topic was whether or not Donald Trump was an aberration and whether the GOP would revert back to its historical positions. At the time, I refrained from calling in, but if I had called in, my remarks would have been that the GOP will never revert back to it's historical self until the Christofascists and white supremacists are exiled from the party. In my view, it was the rise of these two groups within the GOP that set the stage for the rise of Trump and the appeal of his calls to racism and religious extremism under the guise of "make America great again" which to these groups translated to "make America white evangelical Christian again." That said, Congressional Republicans are showing signs that they neither fear Trump nor see him as a positive influence on their agenda. Indeed, between the veto proof legislation on Russian sanctions and now bipartisan talk about health care reform, perhaps Republican members of Congress have realized that they need to proceed on their own without deference to the insane tweets emanating from the White House. A piece in The Daily Beast looks at this possibility. Here are highlights:
Congressional Republicans broke dramatically with the White House on Tuesday over the future of health care reform, with lawmakers entertaining bipartisan talks as the president scrambled for a way to salvage Obamacare repeal and replace efforts.
The talks aren’t expected to yield a quick legislative fix to Obamacare. Instead, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said his committee would simply be hold hearings on possible actions Congress could take to stabilize the health insurance markets.
But the fact that talks were happening at all was a remarkable break from the message that the president and his team were hoping to send. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke in the past tense during a press conference on Tuesday to discuss his party’s efforts to pass Obamacare repeal—“our problem on health care was not the Democrats; we didn't have 50 Republicans”—the administration was continuing to press Republicans to keep at it.
“There are not the votes in the Senate, as I’ve said repeatedly to the president and to all of you, to change the rules of the Senate. There’s not enough even to require 50 or 51 Republicans to agree to do that. The votes are simply not there,” McConnell told reporters.
Trump held talks on Monday with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, ostensibly to convince him to get his home state senator, John McCain, to drop opposition to the last Senate bill. . . . . But the likelihood of that happening is next to nil. Not only is McCain unlikely to return to Washington D.C. as he undergoes treatment for recently-diagnosed brain cancer; but lawmakers are already plotting negotiations for when they get back after Labor Day.
Alexander’s hearings will take place in September, during which the committee plans to hear from state insurance chiefs, governors, health care experts, and representatives from the insurance industry. In the interim, the senator has asked Trump to authorize a short-term stabilization measure known as cost-sharing-reduction (CRS) payments in order to buy Congress time to come up with a bipartisan solution.
[Alexander] was joined by several other high-ranking Republicans too. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) also encouraged Trump to make the CSR payments, as did Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Bob Corker (R-TN).
“There would be a lot of poor people that would, obviously, be negatively affected. And when you’re president, you’re president of the whole country. And while you might be dissatisfied with what you inherited, typically it’s best to try to figure out a way to move ahead in a manner that doesn’t harm folks,” Corker told The Daily Beast.
The fissure on health care between Senate Republicans and the White House presented Democrats with a rare political opening, but not one without its own set of complications.
Several Democratic aides told The Daily Beast that the party is eager to craft a modest deal with Republicans both as a means of stabilizing the individual insurance marketplace and removing the possibility that the GOP returns to a broader repeal-and-replace push—since the case or one would be weakened by the modest deal they struck.
Trump is expected to decide as soon as this week on whether to extend the CSR payments, which help offset costs for insurers and poorer Americans. If the president axes those payments, experts and lawmakers have warned that premiums could skyrocket and even more insurers could leave or threaten to leave the exchanges.
For Democrats, a prerequisite to crafting bipartisan reform is for the administration to alleviate that uncertainty.
“The idea that we’re doing this to just help insurance companies is hogwash. We would help the treasury, and frankly, we would be helping a lot of the people who are getting coverage in the exchanges,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), a former governor who has helmed talks with Republicans for weeks, told The Daily Beast. Carped added that he hopes new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “will talk some sense” into Trump.
If Trump sabotages the existing law, Carper said, Obamacare’s success or failure will rest on his shoulders.
“We have an old saying in Delaware: if you break it, you own it,” said Carper. “And if he breaks it, he will own it. And ironically and cruelly, some of the people who will suffer the most are the people who live in those red states that voted for him, including West Virginia and Kentucky and places like that.”