Just win, baby

So, the Republicans in the House are doing their damndest to pass health care legislation that most of them hate (many, because they think it is still too generous to poor people).  And Trump is pushing really hard for it.  Of course, Trump repeatedlyChait promised better health care for less money for his supporters and this bill is the exact opposite (as I’ve mentioned many times, health care has always been about political expediency for Trump; his true passion is xenophobia).  But, clearly, Trump is so desperate for a “win” that he’s going to the mattresses for objectively bad legislation (literally nobody from anywhere on the political spectrum considers this a good and workable version of health care policy) that directly contravenes his promises.  on some of the illogic behind this:

Overpromising is common for politicians. But Republicans didn’t merely stretch the truth. They have promised something diametrical to their actual agenda. Republican plans would reduce coverage subsidies, foisting people onto cheaper plans with much higher deductibles. All the while, they promised the precise opposite. Whatever they do, they are going to break their promises…

2. Losing will embolden our enemies. “[Trump] told us if we don’t pass this bill on Thursday, it will put everything in jeopardy that he wants to do, his agenda,” Republican Representative John Duncan of Tennessee told The Hill. “If we are not able to move forward with health-care reform, it endangers tax reform,” Representative Bill Flores of Texas, a former chairman of a House conservative caucus, tells Sahil Kapur. “The folks that were able to tear this down would feel like they’re empowered to tear the next big project down.” This is, essentially, the domino theory of legislation. But, really, think about it rationally: The folks who are tearing down Trumpcare are fellow Republicans in Congress. If Trumpcare fails, are they going to turn against tax cuts? …

4. We’ll lose Congress if we fail. “If we get this done, and tax reform, [Trump] believes we pick up ten seats in the Senate and we add to our majority in the House,” says Republican Representative Chris Collins of New York. “If we don’t get it done, we lose the House and the Senate.” Trump has reportedly emphasized the same point to his party.

It is a bit strange to argue that a party can consolidate or even expand its base of support by passing a deeply unpopular bill. To be sure, if Republicans believe that the public has simply been misled about its bill, and will like the result once it has been enacted, they might have reason to think a vote could help them in the long run. But it is almost impossible to find a policy advocate of any ideological persuasion who believes that.

I think it still more likely than not this passes this House, though that’s far from a sure thing.  But, at this point, I truly am wondering what possible legislation pulls off 218 Republican votes in the House and 50 in the Senate.  Whatever legislation does manage to pull that off, will almost surely be abysmal from a cost/benefit public policy perspective.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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