— -- Wow. This is something I never thought I would see. A brand new president, swept into office by a demand for change, controlling both the House and Senate, fails to deliver on his signature campaign promise?
The Republican nail-biting over whether they had the votes seemed totally phony to me, a setup so that when the bill passed they could claim a major victory. But in fact, amazingly, they didn’t have the votes.
Sure, there have been plenty of close calls before -— the clock stopped during roll calls so that more arms could be twisted, promises made as presidential priorities barely squeaked by. But always in the end, the president prevailed. Members of his party knew that it was in their interest, in the long run, for their leader to succeed.
Not this time. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the man who couldn’t deliver his caucus, described the debacle as the “growing pains” of a party unused to governing. The question now: will the rowdy Republican house majority ever outgrow those aches? So far the various factions have acted like warring siblings insisting on getting their way.
And neither the speaker nor President Trump could find a way to change that.
The president is new to the game. Everything he did to try to pass the bill was off-key. He threatened through tweets, and insisted on a showdown, not seeming to realize that each member of Congress has been independently elected with a base of power separate from his.
The speaker has had experience dealing with these folks, but with a Democratic president he had the luxury of pushing proposals that would never become law. Easy to vote for something that’s not really going to happen.
The health bill was different. It counted. And the more the voters learned about the measure, the less they liked it. Democrats threatened to tattoo Republican foreheads with the bill as constituents with diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s and those caring for someone sick in their families let their concerns be known. Those voices would be certain to grow even louder once the bill moved to the Senate.
Why go out on a limb and do something unpopular, House members ask, only to see the Senate saw it off? That’s a common dynamic in Congress but one unknown to Trump and unanswerable by Ryan.
So now what? Beats me. We’re in new territory here. The question is whether President Trump knows that.