The Note: Trump puts the pressure on his party

Trump is pressuring House GOP ahead of tomorrow's vote on the health care bill.

ByABC News
March 22, 2017, 7:52 AM


Day No. 62

THE BIG STORY: This is set up for something big – bigger even than the actual stakes. The Trump White House team has put everything it has into making the health care vote in the House a defining moment, for President Trump and the GOP congressional leadership whose fate is now tied to his leadership. The president’s blunt warning to one House Republican who opposes him - “I’m going to come after you” – may have been said with a smile. But nobody thinks he is really kidding. With major conservative groups that focus on health care – Heritage, the Club for Growth, Freedom Partners – lining up in opposition, Trump is asking House members to trust not just his word but his political power, all for a bill that would still stand a slim chance of passing the Senate. That’s a reminder of the actual stakes: Since when is a Republican president’s winning a vote in the Republican House considered a major achievement? (Former Vice President Joe Biden comes to the Hill today, but mainly to serve as a reminder that Democrats aren’t part of his equation.) And yet, a Trump-era warning applies. Why think this will turn out normally, at any turn?

THE SLEEPER STORY: Amid the political insanity, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings have been taking place in a bubble, in a time warp to a recent past of serious questioning sprinkled with predictable political sparring. It’s been a refreshing return to Washington normalcy; even tired talking points, traded between the parties as they are, can sound somehow comforting. It may stand as a credit to the Senate Judiciary Committee that it can operate as if nothing outside the hearing room has changed. It also stands to benefit the nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who has come across as earnest, human and humorous through his first two days in front of the committee. Gorsuch has looked slightly testy under questioning by Democrats, but he remains on a glide path to confirmation. The only reminders that he’s being considered for confirmation in Trump’s Washington have come when the president himself comes up; Trump’s interest in what it would have taken him to win Colorado is about as Trump a question for a Supreme Court nominee that one can imagine.

THE SHINY STORY: “A very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” That was White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s description of Paul Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign, where his role was limited to running the whole campaign during a period of months that included locking down the nomination, running the Republican National Convention and choosing a running mate. That line is, of course, laughable. But no one at the White House can imagine chuckling over The Associated Press story out this morning. The AP unearthed decade-old work Manafort did for a Russian billionaire, where he promised a strategy that “can greatly benefit the Putin Government.” Manafort increasingly looks like a focus of investigators’ scrutiny of ties between the Trump operation and Russian interests, thus the distance between Trump and Manafort that the White House is trying to open up. It’s a reminder that the Russia story doesn’t disappear just because no one inside the Trump White House is implicated.

TLDR: The stakes are high for Thursday: Trump and his administration are making the health care vote a critical moment for his presidency, but he's still very much lining up votes with no guarantee it will pass the House, never mind the Senate.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: The president went to Capitol Hill Tuesday to make the personal pitch to Republicans to support the GOP health care bill. He even warned those wavering that their jobs could be at risk in next year's midterm elections if they didn't support the legislation. The personal visit definitely helped with some members, but the ABC News count still has at least 22 House members that have not committed to supporting it, enough to sink the bill. Here's a colorful image of the visit from the Twitter feed of Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo.:


--TRUMP WARNS GOP: DON'T BE ‘FOOLS’ ON HEALTH CARE VOTE: President Trump delivered a warning to House Republicans Tuesday morning: don't be "fools" and kill the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. For roughly 40 minutes, the president huddled with the Republican conference behind closed doors, delivering what his aides described as a final sales pitch ahead of Thursday's expected House floor vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Multiple members in the room told ABC News the president said they will lose seats in the 2018 midterm elections if they don't follow through and pass the AHCA. The message, seen by some participants as meant in jest rather than as a threat, did signal that the president supports Speaker Paul Ryan's view that the Thursday vote is a defining moment for the party. ABC’s MARY BRUCE, MARYALICE PARKS, BENJAMIN SIEGEL, JOHN PARKINSON, ALI ROGIN and JORDYN PHELPS have more:

--UNCOMMITTED REPUBLICANS PUT OBAMACARE OVERHAUL IN JEOPARDY: At least 22 Republicans in the U.S. House oppose or remain undecided on the American Health Care Act, enough to jeopardize the fate of the sweeping bill when it is slated to come for a vote on Thursday evening, according to an ABC News count. House GOP leaders need 216 votes to pass the bill, which allows for 21 Republican "no" votes, assuming every Democratic member in the chamber also votes "no." Still, the count remains fluid as the lobbying efforts on both sides continue.

--SCOTUS NOMINEE SAYS ATTACKS ON FEDERAL JUDGES 'DISHEARTENING’: Judge Neil Gorsuch sought to distance himself from the Trump administration and slam the president for his attacks against federal judges during his testimony before members of Congress on Tuesday. Gorsuch said he was offended by language used by President Trump, who has a history of lashing out against federal judges involved in cases that are not in his favor, ABC’s MARIAM KHAN reports. "When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening. I find that demoralizing, because I know the truth," Gorsuch said. When Gorsuch was asked if "anyone" included Trump himself, Gorsuch responded, "Anyone is anyone."


KEY MOMENTS FROM GORSUCH'S SECOND DAY OF CONFIRMATION HEARING. Judge Neil Gorsuch answered questions yesterday about the president's travel ban, Roe v. Wade and other hot button issues. ABC’s MARIAM KHAN highlights some of the key takeaways from Tuesday's hearing.

HEALTH CARE EXPERTS DOUBT CHANGES TO GOP BILL WITH LEAD TO MORE COVERAGE. Health care experts doubt that the amendments added Monday night to the Republican health care bill will change top-line numbers estimates from the Congressional Budget Office about how many people will be uninsured under the proposed bill or how much out of pocket cost may go up. One of the other major concerns with the bill were skyrocketing, out-of-pocket costs projected for lower income, older Americans, who could see costs rise but their tax credit shrink significantly compared to current subsidies provided under current law. ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS has more.

HOW IVANKA TRUMP'S ROLE AT THE WHITE HOUSE HAS GROWN. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump has been by her father’s side since he took office, but with Monday’s announcement that she’ll have her own seat in the White House, her role as first daughter is heading into unprecedented territory. The news that Ivanka Trump, 35, is being given a West Wing office, increased security clearance and a government-issued communications device was met with shock by some experts, ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY writes. “There really is no precedent for this. I do not have any knowledge of a similar arrangement of an individual with no formal title with an office and clearance. But like many things in the administration, they are breaking new ground,” said Anita McBride, a former assistant to President George W. Bush and chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.


TRUMP'S US-MEXICO BORDER WALL GIVES ARIZONA TOWN A SENSE OF WORRY AND HOPE. John Ladd has seen just about every incarnation of the border fence separating his cattle ranch in Arizona from Mexico. Ladd, like the majority of other voters in Cochise County, a postage-stamp-shaped county at the southeastern corner of Arizona, voted for Trump. “What he said about Mexico, what he said the problems were with illegal immigration is reality,” Ladd said. “We live here.” More from ABC’s JESSICA HOPPER and MEGHAN KENEALLY:


@ChadSDay: Latest with @JeffHorwitz --> @AP Exclusive: Manafort had plan to benefit Putin government

@rickklein: "why would we comment on Paul Manafort's contracts?" - WH response to @jonkarl

@TheBrodyFile: EXCLUSIVE: @POTUS to deliver @LibertyU commencement. @realDonaldTrump gives @CBNNews the scoop. @JenniferWishon

@ABCRadio: Introducing "Uncomfortable," a new @ABCRadio #podcast hosted by Amna Nawaz (@Nawazistan)

@ChadPergram: Freedom Caucus Ldr Mark Meadows says he still has 21 votes to kill health care bill. "I’m going to be a no even if it sends me home."

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