This is spinning out of control for Paul Ryan. Poor baby! He’s been working and plotting for 7 years now to do this, if only he ever got the chance. Now, not only has he failed to deliver his caucus on time, but he doesn’t even seem to have the power to take another day or two to try to twist arms to be able to pass the bill on Sunday or Monday. The Tiny Thumbs Diktator has laid down the law; “Vote tomorrow or Obamacare stays”. And now Paul Ryan will possibly fall on his sword today just to please his Emperor.
The ultimate outcome of the vote this morning is almost a moot point. It is already pretty much DOA in the Senate, and I find it inconceivable that Yertl the Turtle would push the nuclear button on this dog of a bill. The best he can do is to try to let his majority mark up the bill with whatever amendments they need to in able to get 51 votes, which would poison for the House in the reconciliation process. But there is an important takeaway from this mess, and it goes much deeper than just the GOP health care bill.
Ryan is a wonk. He never wanted this job, he was perfectly chairing his committee, creating fanciful budgets that could never pass but were a wet dream for conservatives. He’s a numbers guy, and the total number of votes in your caucus was all that mattered. But it turns out that it doesn’t quite always work that way, as Eddie Munster is rapidly finding out.
This vote should be a no brainer for Ryan, he has a bloody 22 vote cushion. But in order to have a majority, everybody has to be on the same page, and Ryan doesn’t have this luxury. You can have 40 guys working the oars on a ship, but if only half of them are rowing, then the only place you’re going is in circles. Nancy Pelosi knew this during the Obamacare debate, and she even pooled her caucus and told them they weren’t in Washington to get reelected, they were there to do the right thing for the country. The caucus came together and did the right thing.
Paul Ryan is not dealing with this kind of loyalty or teamwork. The same damn Freedom Caucus that drove John Boehner to retire rather than fight with them anymore is now wreaking havoc on Ryan. And they aren’t about to be bullied by a loyalty rant from Ryan either. This is why this mornings vote is a true Las Vegas craps shoot. Trump has hamstrung him, denying him the most important thing, time to twist arms and find compromises. If the vote comes off on time in the morning, then I’ll hear about it when I turn on the t.v. in the morning.
The funny thing is that the recalcitrant members, especially in red states have a simple cop out for not voting for this “repeal” bill to their voters back home. In fact, it’s not a bill to repeal the ACA, it is an amendment to the law, it still leaves a sizeable functional framework of the ACA in place. The members can go home and argue that to their constituents, and they may well buy it if it’s explained simply enough.
But there’s something more important to look at here. A 22 seat majority only works if everybody works the same way. And the current GOP House majority isn’t constructed that way, it’s a fractured party. You have the Teahadists, who want to gut government, period. Then you have traditional conservatives, and you have members who won in districts that Hillary won in 2016, and they’re facing serious heat at home. This tug-o-war won’t stop with the life or death of the healthcare bill. Infrastructure will have trouble, they can’t pass it without borrowing money and expanding the deficit, which will be a hard sell for a bunch of them. The Trump budget will be chopped to ribbons, too many members, especially Senators from states with large urban centers are not going to want to gut every social safety net there is in sight to the bones. Ideology be damned, they still have voters to pander to.
One thing is clear, at least to me, a guy with less than 20-20 vision. Whatever happens with the health care vote, things will not get easier for the GOP. The buzz saw that the GOP has run into with this bill is a shot in the arm for all of the grassroots activists out there. They have now seen firsthand that pressure works. They have held their Members of Congress’ feet to the fire, and heard the screams. This can be done for almost any bill that threatens things that are important to them, and their congress critters are already retreating to a neutral corner. At this particular moment (10:54 PDT on 3/23) we haven’t actually won a battle yet, but we have already put the fear of God into the GOP, quite possibly more so than anything the Orange Julius can do.