Leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, unhappy with the Republican health care legislation being rushed through the House by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), are taking their concerns directly to President Donald Trump.Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and former Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) spent Thursday afternoon at the White House, meeting with budget staffers, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, and Trump himself.... Freedom Caucus members are demanding changes to the health care bill that Republican House leaders refuse to make.
It's a trick many children learn at a young age: if one parent won't give you what you want, quietly ask the other parent, who might offer a more satisfying answer.A similar dynamic is unfolding in Washington right now. The Huffington Post reported yesterday:
Paul Ryan has told his members that he's simply not prepared to make major changes to his health care reform bill, the American Health Care Act, which some have begun calling "Trumpcare." The White House, however, is far more flexible, with the president telling everyone he's ready to negotiate.The result is hardly surprising. When the Huffington Post asked House Freedom Caucus member Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) if he and his allies who are critical of Ryan's bill are deliberately circumventing the Speaker's office to negotiate with the White House, the congressman didn't exactly deny it."We're appealing to a president who likes to negotiate, who likes to win, and who likes to keep his promises," Labrador said.At a certain level, this may lead some to believe that the bill's odds of passage are improving. After all, if Freedom Caucus members are positioned to possibly kill the legislation in the House, and Trump is prepared to make concessions that makes these far-right members happy, perhaps the White House is taking steps to ensure the bill's success in the lower chamber.Except, it's not quite working out that way.According to reports from CNN and Politico, Trump is quietly letting Freedom Caucus members know that the White House will support ending Medicaid expansion even faster than the current GOP bill allows. This change, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said, would "go a long way toward getting conservatives to support the bill."So, problem solved, right? Wrong. Moving the bill to the right would likely help give the proposal a boost among far-right Republicans in the House, but let's not forget that in the Senate, quite a few Republicans have already said they're skeptical of the existing GOP plan because it's already too punitive when it comes to Medicaid.Indeed, five GOP senators said this week that this provision alone is enough to make them highly skeptical of the legislation -- and it will only take three Senate Republicans to defeat the bill.The president may not understand this. It's easy to imagine him sitting down in the Oval Office, hearing from far-right lawmakers, and concluding, "It sounds like they'll vote for this if we kill off Medicaid expansion. Piece of cake." This might make strategic sense if it weren't for the fact that the same move pushes Senate Republicans even further away.Remember, we're dealing with a dynamic in which Trump is prepared to take a hands-on role, but he's a poor negotiator; he knows effectively nothing about health care policy; and his understanding of the legislative process is even worse.The last group of people to talk to the president tend to assume he's in their corner. Politico added, "The mixed signals have allowed hard-line conservatives and leadership to hear what they want to hear. Each side is taking Trump's words and arguing he's in their corner."Fine-tuned machine, indeed.