When House Republicans narrowly approved a far-right health care overhaul in early May, Donald Trump could hardly contain his glee. The president hosted a big celebration at the White House – a rarity for a bill that had only passed one chamber – and touted the GOP legislation as a triumph.
“What we have is something very, very incredibly well-crafted,” Trump said of his party’s proposal, adding, “It’s going to be an unbelievable victory, actually, when we get it through the Senate.” The president described the House legislation as “a great plan” – three times.
Evidently, Trump has changed his mind.
In a meeting with Republican senators Tuesday to discuss health care reform, President Donald Trump gave them support to move in a different direction from the House-passed version of the legislation which he described as “mean,” according to two Senate aides whose bosses attended the lunch.
“He talked about making sure we have a bill that protects people with pre-existing conditions and helps people. We talked a little bit about the tax credit to make that work for low income elderly people,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who attended the meeting, said. “And he certainly is fine with us taking a different direction with what the House did.”
By multiple accounts, the Republican president denounced the House Republicans’ proposal in no uncertain terms. A CNN report, for example, quoted a source saying the bill was “cold-hearted.” BuzzFeed’s article said Trump used the phrase “son of a bitch” to describe the pending legislation.
Before the meeting with Senate Republicans began in earnest, the president told his guests that the Senate version will be “generous, kind, with heart.” Left unsaid was Trump’s apparent belief that the House version, which he touted vigorously, wasn’t generous or kind, and obviously lacked heart.
There’s no great mystery as to why Trump would express love for the House bill in May, and disdain for the House bill in June. Indeed, Politico’s report fleshed out the key detail:
[Trump] made clear that the Senate needs to pass a bill that Republicans are able to more easily defend and is not viewed as an attack on Americans from low-income households, as the House bill has been portrayed by critics, the sources said…. Trump has told associates that news coverage of the House health care bill was “terrible,” in the words of one associate who has spoken with him. […]
[A]ides and associates said he has not liked the news coverage and has shown little interest in what is in the bill – but wants it to be received well.
A few days after the House bill passed, the president sat down with Time magazine and boasted that after brief study, he “understood everything there was to know about health care.” That, of course, is demonstrably ridiculous: Trump knows effectively nothing about health care, and he’s made no effort to familiarize himself with any of the rudimentary details.
What he cares about, however, is a political win. He thought the House overhaul was “terrific,” because Paul Ryan told him so. Trump changed his mind when he saw news reports about the tens of millions of Americans who’d suffer if the bill ever became law. So the president now wants the Senate to pass a less “mean” bill so that the Republican plan will “be received well” and maybe his approval rating will reach 40%.
He’s a post-policy president, leading a post-policy party.
Postscript: It’s a safe bet that Democratic campaign operatives and their allies will put yesterday’s developments to good use in the 2018 midterms. After all, 217 House Republicans voted for the right-wing legislation that Trump has called “mean” and “cold-hearted” – a detail their constituents will be made aware of in campaign ads.