White House Vows New Zombie-Trumpcare ‘Showdown’
This week, the Trump administration announced its intention to resuscitate “Zombie Trumpcare” with a new compromise amendment that would finally win over enough hard-right and centrist-leaning Republicans to its side.
It was only a month ago that the White House tried to strongarm House Republicans into having a floor vote for the AHCA. That effort spanned weeks of direct threats and horse-trading face-planting, that include President Donald Trump himself threatening Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the hardline-conservative House Freedom Caucus, in public and Trump’s White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon recommending the president keep a running “shit list” of Republicans who got in the way.
The effort failed spectacularly, with both staunch-conservative and more moderate voices defecting from Trumpcare, some of whom declared voting for it would be worse than doing nothing about Obamacare.
House Republican aides involved with the process who spoke with The Daily Beast on Thursday afternoon universally expressed moderate skepticism at best, and brutal outlook at worst, at the idea that a floor vote would possibly happen by Wednesday of next week. One senior GOP aide simply responded with a series of laughing-crying emojis.
Two weeks ago, the White House tried to pull of something similar. That time around, Trump administration officials were actively conveying to House Republicans and Washington reporters that revised text and a brand-new deal would be ready for review that week.
It was revealed at a late-night meeting that no promised text even existed for Meadows and other holdouts to read.
When asked by The Daily Beast why this time was different than past supposed on-the-cusp-of-a-breakthrough moments for the bill, a senior White House official would only say that “progress has been made” and that Republican leadership and the Trump White House were “close to” getting the votes needed to get this over the congressional finish line.
This has been the standard line for weeks—months that have produced no concrete, solid evidence that the ball had been moved or “progress” made.
On Thursday, Politico reported that the Trump administration was pushing for a “showdown vote” on repealing Obamacare next week, to pull off a successful revival of the legislation before President Donald Trump hits his 100-day mark in office. Officials are currently making efforts to get enough House Republicans to a “yes” by next Wednesday or Thursday, and are looking to have new legislative text of “a new deal” ready for view this Friday or over the weekend.
This “deal”—negotiated by Meadows and Congressman Tom MacArthur, co-chair of the more moderate Tuesday Group—would grant states more leeway to opt-out of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
The night prior, The Huffington Post reported on this “new deal”—which is still under review by House and Senate Republican leadership—stressing that such a compromise would free up insurers to deny coverage by pricing-out sick people and those with pre-existing conditions: “The reality is they may be even further away from an Obamacare replacement than before,” the site bluntly summarized.
But the White House’s insistence on alleged progress on this matter—at a time when many elected Republicans have publicly wished that their party would move on to other major pieces of legislation—is no surprise. According to senior Trump administration officials speaking to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity to speak freely, some of Trump’s top aides have been “taking a lot of heat” and are under tremendous pressure to score a win—any win—before President Trump hits the 100-day mark next week.
The symbolic and policy-world significance of the Trump administration failing to achieve any major step on the Obamacare-repeal front in the first 100 days of the Trump era would “weigh heavily” on a president whose ego bruises easily, one administration official noted.
Both of his top aides found themselves in the crosshairs in the wake of the failure.
Bannon, in part because of his close relationship with Meadows, who he still texts with the Freedom Caucus chair, according to two sources with knowledge of their relationship, as well as White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus have already shouldered a share of the blame for the original Trumpcare debacle. After the failure of the healthcare bill, speculation has been rampant that their respective job security in the president’s eyes could in part hinge on this lack of victory in the first 100 days.
Regarding, officials working in the White House are at least trying to project confidence. According to Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, an "all hands" is planned for this Saturday to discuss supposed progress on finally killing Obamacare.
"’Zombie Trumpcare’ is exactly that: a zombie,” a House Republican aide vented to The Daily Beast earlier this month. “Slow-moving, [and] disintegrating.”