Sunday, Texas conservative Ted Poe resigned from the Freedom Caucus because of TrumpCare. He was for it. The Caucus was, by and large, against it. Maybe Poe was afraid of Trump's wrath but that is odd in a Houston area district that wasn't especially pro-Trump. Romney won Poe's district with 63%, around the same that McCain won it with. Trump only managed 52.4%. And had Trumpcare been enacted into law-- and Poe never made any bones about voting for it-- 26,054 of his constituents would have found themselves without health insurance. His district includes Montrose, one of the biggest and most vibrant LGBT communities in America, but the DCCC has never once given Poe a serious challenge to reelection. So he knows he can behave like a dirt-bag with alacrity. So far he has no opponent for 2018.
Over the weekend, conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan speculated that Trump has-- finally-- had it... or rather the American public has had it with Trump and his vile kakistocracy. "Trump still shows alarming potential as a would-be tyrant, contemptuous of constitutional proprieties, and prone to trashing every last norm of liberal democracy," he warned. "But he is also beginning to appear simultaneously as a rather weak chief executive, uninterested in competent management or follow-through, bedeviled by divisions within his own party, transfixed by cable news, and swiftly discrediting himself by an endless stream of lies, delusions, and conspiracy theories." And with no credibility left, at least not, according to Sullivan, "among sane people." Sullivan also warned the Republicans that the midterms aren't going to be kind to them in 2018.
A president hobbled domestically by his own party’s divisions and the opposition’s new energy may be tempted-- Putin-like-- to change the subject in a way that vaults him back to popularity. A foreign altercation from which he will not back down? A trade war? A smidge likelier, I’d say, is an over-the-top response to an inevitable jihadist terror attack in a major American city. A demagogue loses much of his power when he tries to wrestle complicated legislation through various political factions, in the way our gloriously inefficient Constitution requires. He regains it with rank fear, polarization, and a raw show of force. Heaven knows what the Constitution will look like once he’s finished.
The Times' Alexander Burns reported over the weekend that the ignominious collapse of TrumpCare amidst disastrous polling numbers and internal Republican Party in-fighting is leaving the bill's supporters "in a political jam back home". He mentioned, as examples, two very vulnerable Republicans. "John Faso of New York negotiated a side deal for his state in exchange for backing it. Mike Coffman was the lone Colorado lawmaker to endorse the bill, while his Republican neighbors agonized and stalled."
The other possibility is that Trump really does at some point realize he’s sinking fast and decides on a hard pivot. He wants to win and be loved, and if he keeps losing and becomes more widely loathed with his current strategy, it’s by no means out of character for him to recalibrate. He could use the possible failure of Trumpcare to feed Paul Ryan to the Breitbartians, and reach out to Democrats on a tweaked Obamacare and infrastructure package. He could dump Bannon the way he dumped Manafort and bullshit his way through all the inconsistencies (the one thing he remains rather good at). He could wrest himself like Kong on Skull Island from the giant lizards and become the tribune of the forgotten men and women he wants to be, and combine nationalism and protectionism with, er, socialism, like his heroine Marine Le Pen. He could finally realize the potential he has thrown away so far, and become an American Perón.
The only snag with this strategy, of course, is that he could hard-pivot only to find himself a Kong who’s alienated from the GOP and obstructed by the emboldened Dems, a rogue, bleeding president without a party, marooned on his own island of polarized irrelevance.
But with the collapse of the legislation on Friday, such Republican representatives now have nothing to show for their trouble. They ventured far out on a political limb, only to watch it disintegrate behind them. And when they run for re-election next year, they may have to defend their support for a politically explosive bill that many Republicans backed only reluctantly, and that never came close to reaching the president’s desk.
The Democratic candidates we talked to since the bill imploded last week don't seem unclear at all. Katie Hill, for example, is running against a wishy-washy, scared-of-his-own-shadow Republican, Steve Knight. Last cycle, the DCCC forced some guy from outside the district on local Democrats and while Hillary won the blue-leaning district 50.3% to 43.6%, Knight won reelection over the hapless DCCC shill, 112,768 (54.2%) to 95,296 (45.8%). Katie is working on doing a lot better. We asked her how to characterize the differences between herself and Knight on Ryan's health care plan. "From my perspective, it was a terrible plan right from the start," she told us. "Out of party loyalty and an apparent lack of concern for his constituents who would lose coverage, Knight acted like the proposal had merit. He refused to take a real public stand one way or the other, so the fact that he didn't have to actually vote on it must have been a huge relief to him. Nonetheless, we know that he has not been standing up to say that all of his constituents deserve and need affordable health care. I promise to do that if I'm elected to replace him. Even though the ACA is still intact, we have a long way to go to really fix our health care system. I'm ready to fight for that in Congress. True leaders are more than just people who vote for or against what their party leadership tells them to. Unfortunately, Congressman Knight has not demonstrated his own core values that are not dependent on party lines. Folks in the Antelope Valley, Simi Valley and Santa Clarita expect and deserve real leadership, not someone who is afraid of standing up to the party establishment and special interests that back them. I will make the district I grew up in proud that they sent a local woman to Congress to make real change happen for the people in our communities and our country."
The fiasco in Washington is already rippling at home: Back in their districts, there are early signs of backlash against these lawmakers, including from constituents who voted Republican last November.
...National Republicans, still reeling from their unexpected defeat, expressed hope that health care might fade as an issue before the congressional elections in 2018. With more than a year and a half until voters next pass judgment on the Republican-controlled Congress, party leaders say they have plenty of time to record victories on issues like a tax code overhaul and infrastructure spending. Mr. Trump and Speaker Paul D. Ryan indicated on Friday that they did not intend to revisit health care in the near future.
But Republican strategists also acknowledged that they would probably have to give extra help to vulnerable members of Congress who supported the health care bill. Corry Bliss, the chief strategist for the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” backed by Mr. Ryan, said the group would go out of its way to protect lawmakers who backed the bill. “We are committed to helping advance the legislative agenda of House leadership,” Mr. Bliss said on Saturday. “Of course we are going to give preferential treatment to friends and allies.”
By contrast, Mr. Bliss noted that the group had cut off funding to Representative David Young of Iowa, a Republican who opposed the health care bill.
It is unclear whether voters’ anger over health care will be enough help Democrats win a majority in the House next year.
Darrell Issa and his most important constituent
Doug Applegate nearly beat Darrell Issa in the San Diego area last year. He's determined to finish the job in 2018. It didn't help Issa any that he kept wavering on the bill every time he got tugged in one direction or another. "It was an embarrassing week for Congressional Republicans," Applegate told us, "but it was even more embarrassing for Darrell Issa. When TrumpCare was first written, protests erupted at Issa’s office and Issa said he would vote no. But when Donald Trump sat down with Issa and asked him to support a bill that would cause 24 million Americans to lose health insurance, Issa flip flopped and supported it. I guess we know where Darrell’s true loyalty lies."
Voters on the South Shore of Long Island are trying to persuade DuWayne Gregory to run against Peter King again this year. King's dilly-dallying around the whole healthcare issue didn't endear him to anyone on either side of the contentious issue. DuWayne, who's the Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature told us that "King did the politically cowardly thing in regard TrumpCare; he tried to conceal his position from his own constituents. He instructed his staff to tell any callers that he was leaning no then after hundreds of calls, he changed that to "undecided." And yet, it was reported that during President Trump's visit to Capitol Hill to meet with GOP lawmakers he pointed out King saying they had grown up near each other in Queens. King was quoted afterwards as saying that "it would be difficult to vote no" after being singled out like that. Peter King's district was slated to be one of the worse affected by the AHCA with nearly 82,000 constituents to have lost insurance. Trumpcare was a disaster for those on Medicaid, also allowing insurers off the hook for providing maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health and more egregious provisions. Look at this; it's what they wanted to deny coverage for:
"Peter King and the New York State Republican delegation had negotiated an added bonus for New York State county governments by attempting to shift the cost of Medicaid to the state. This provision was labeled an attack on New York by Governor Cuomo. Worse yet, preliminary estimates of this, New York only, provision would have cost Suffolk County over $100 million. To think Peter King would have voted against the interests of millions of Americans and thousands of his own constituents simply because Trump recognized him is embarrassing and failure as a leader."
We introduced you to Dr. Jason Westin early in the month. He's a progressive candidate-- and a cancer specialist-- running against John Culberson in a district Hillary won 48.5% to 47.1% (after Romney beat Obama there 59.9% to 38.6%. He told me today that "Congressman Culberson knows that his district (TX-07) will be targeted by the DCCC and other groups as a pickup opportunity if the right candidate emerges for 2018. As a savvy career politician, he recognized that taking a position on the TrumpCare bill would open him up to criticism from his left or his right. He showed his true colors by taking no public position, despite his having co-sponsored H.R. 277 on January 4th, 2017, a much harsher 'root and branch' repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Surprising no one, he told local press after the bill was withdrawn that he 'absolutely' was supporting TrumpCare. The voters of TX-07 deserve a representative who will be honest, explain and not hide their vote, and be open to feedback. As my team says, we will 'Repeal and Replace' Culberson on 11/06/18."
You want to be sure a Republican was sincere about not supporting Ryan's horrific TrumpCare mess, look at the records. For example, mainstream, libertarian-leaning North Carolina conservative Walter Jones wrote a long piece for his constituents on his official house website where he explains why he would vote against TrumpCare. "Over the past two and half weeks," he wrote, "over 1,000 Eastern North Carolinians of all political stripes have contacted my office. Well over 90 percent are opposed to the bill. I asked for this job to represent the people of Eastern North Carolina, and they have spoken clearly. Furthermore, there are many aspects of the bill that deeply trouble me because of their potential effects on Eastern North Carolina and rural America. For example, the bill discriminates against as many as 7 million American veterans by making them ineligible to receive tax credits provided in the bill. It would also result in low-to-middle income seniors paying dramatically higher premiums. For instance, a 64-year old making $26,500 a year would see their annual premium jump from $1,700 to $14,600. It’s time to scrap this flawed bill and start over. Go out across the country, gather people’s input, and use an open, public process to thoughtfully craft a bill that delivers the relief the American people need."
Compare Jones' clear, forthright, well-reasoned statement of opposition to the deceitful mumbo-jumbo that spewed out of crooks like Issa, King, Culberson and Knight.
Labels: 2018 congressional races, Andrew Sullivan, Culberson, Darrell Issa, Doug Applegate, DuWayne Gregory, Jason Westin, Katie Hill, Peter King, repealing Obamacare, Steve Knight, Ted Poe, Trumpcare, Walter Jones