U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) and Vice-President elect Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 10, 2016.
Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Paul Ryan won’t escape blame for failing on health care

About a week ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a harsh critic of the House Republicans’ health care plan, said something interesting about the state of play within his party.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday accused House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) of trying to deceive President Trump in an effort to win his support for House Republicans’ measure repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

“I don’t think it makes any sense and I think he’s trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the president,” Paul said in an interview with Breitbart News.
I didn’t think much of this at the time, but Rand Paul may have raised a legitimate point.

It’s not unreasonable to conclude that Donald Trump is an easy mark. Love the president or hate him, the amateur politician has no working understanding of public policy in any area, especially health care, and as recently as late October, Trump made clear that he hates the Affordable Care Act despite not understanding the basics of how it works.

Along comes the Speaker of the House, who convinced the president of his credibility – a trick Paul Ryan has pulled on a few too many journalists – and persuaded Trump to follow the House GOP’s lead on scrapping “Obamacare.” Ryan no doubt assured the White House, not only in the merits of the party’s American Health Care Act, but also in the Republican leadership’s ability to get the bill through Congress.

Trump, unprepared, impatient, and indifferent towards the details of a debate he knows nothing about, trusted Ryan to get it right – unaware of just how badly Ryan would screw this up.

Why does this matter? A couple of reasons.

First, don’t be surprised if Trump and Ryan, who’ve been on the same page, start to splinter. In fact, we’re already seeing the early signs: late yesterday, while the Trump administration was telling the world to ignore the Congressional Budget Office, Paul Ryan did the exact opposite, saying that the CBO’s score was actually good news, contradicting his White House allies.

Soon after, Breitbart News, a right-wing website that was run by Steve Bannon, published the audio recording of Paul Ryan privately trashing Trump two days ahead of Election Day, telling Republicans at the time he would not “defend Donald Trump – not now, not in the future.” Breitbart’s point wasn’t exactly subtle: it seemed to be telling the president not to follow the Speaker’s lead, since Trump doesn’t really owe Ryan anything.

And second, it’s hard to overstate how much blame Ryan will take if/when his health care plan fails. The House Speaker took it upon himself to oversee every step of this process, and he managed to do just about everything wrong, writing a secret bill behind closed doors, seeking no input from his ostensible allies, getting no buy-in from the industry or stakeholders in the system, and crafting a wholly inadequate blueprint that seemed slapped together, despite seven years of effort.

Sure, the fight isn’t officially over, and weird things happen. If Donald Trump can become president, I can’t definitively rule out the possibility that “Trumpcare” might somehow become law. But as things stand, Paul Ryan took control of his party’s top priority, creating the first real test of his ability to be a political leader of consequence. The Speaker is failing spectacularly.

Why do I get the sense John Boehner is sitting quietly at home, laughing?

Donald Trump, Health Care and Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan won't escape blame for failing on health care