Demise of GOP health care plan unleashes Trump’s vindictive nature

Six months into his term, President Trump can only celebrate the collapse of Trumpcare and he blames you

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published July 19, 2017 6:09PM (EDT)

 (AP/John Locher/Shutterstock/Salon)
(AP/John Locher/Shutterstock/Salon)

Donald Trump will likely celebrate his six-month anniversary in the White House on Thursday seething over the embarrassing collapse of Republicans’ plan to overturn his predecessor's signature domestic achievement. Obamacare still hasn’t been repealed, despite Trump’s campaign pledge to gut the landmark health care legislation “very, very quickly” and replace it with “something terrific.” Aside from failing to convince Senate Republicans to agree on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act -- as they have promised for years -- Trump’s first six months in office has been marred by the Russia scandal. Faced with such grand failure, the man who, less than 100 days into office predicted that he will become the most successful president in recent history, is now returning to his vindictive roots and turning his target onto fellow Republicans.

“Any senator who votes against debate says you are fine with Obamacare,” Trump said on Wednesday, criticizing GOP lawmakers who have said they would do just that. In a purely punitive move, the president hosted Senate Republicans for their second meal at the White House this week -- an event meant to publicly shame those who expressed dissent.

“We can repeal, but we should repeal and replace and we shouldn’t leave town until this is complete, until this bill is on my desk, and until we all go over to the Oval Office, I’ll sign it and we can celebrate for the American people,” he told the group in televised remarks.

The president then gestured to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who was sitting next to him, and said, “Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”

Heller, who faces one of the toughest re-election battles of any GOP senator in 2018, let out an uncomfortable laugh.

While a small group of Senate Republicans who opposed the various versions of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s replacement and repeal plans announced an emergency meeting for Wednesday night to hash out their differences, the ideological gulf between moderates who don’t want Medicaid expansion rolled back and conservatives who want a complete repeal of Obamacare will likely prove too wide to bridge before daybreak -- when Trump marks his six-month anniversary as president.

“People are hurting. Inaction is not an option,” Trump said at the White House lunch on Wednesday. “And, frankly, I don’t think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we can give our people great health care. Because we’re close. We’re very close.”

In front of news cameras, Trump added that he was surprised to see his “friends” oppose the Senate GOP plan, quickly adding, “They might not be very much longer.”

Trump complained that Republicans in Congress have failed to sell their plan to the public. Senate Republicans’ bill, commonly referred to as Trumpcare, is supported by only 12 percent of Americans. The president, however, neglected to mention that between Monday and Wednesday he managed to publicly take three different positions on the issue. Trump this week has endorsed a simultaneous repeal and replacement of the law; a repeal-only approach; and a return to calling for inaction in hopes Obamacare fails on its own.

Republicans have begun to form a circular firing squad after the ignominious collapse of their years-long effort to undue Barack Obama’s signature achievement — and Trump is happy to happy to return fire against Republicans. He's vindictive. At this point, his negotiations with Congressional Republicans are for show, meant to punish them for disobedience. It won't change enough votes. There is no indication that Trump even understands the bill he’s begging to sign into law well enough to sell it members of his own party who oppose it from all sides of the ideological spectrum.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

MORE FROM Sophia Tesfaye