Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mr. Trump Does Washington

Last Friday the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, pulled the American Health Care Act from consideration. He knew he didn't have the votes to pass it. The press and pundits generally considered it a yuuuuge failure for Mr. Ryan and President Trump. They are half right, better than their usual score. Mr. Ryan has indeed suffered a huge failure.

I wrote of Trump's inaugural speech on January 20,

"I thought it particularly comical when the camera showed Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell smiling, clapping and nodding vigorously. They appear not to understand that they are part of the problem and will either acquiesce to the new regime or be driven from office."

Having given a lot of thought to the AHCA situation it occurs to me that the President played it perfectly. He let Ryan lead with his chin. If the bill passed, Ok, another promise kept, if imperfectly. If not, the defeat was Ryan's. Another win-win.

There is another element to the equation, I think. Ryan has been neutered. He took on a job for the President, no doubt confidently assuring the neophyte Trump of success and thoroughly botched it. He cannot any longer present himself to Trump as the Washington insider who knows which levers to pull and buttons to push. He will, from now on, be told what to do and how to do it by the White House.

Mitch McConnell is next on the list and the Gorsuch nomination, if botched, will do for him what the AHCA did for Ryan.

As things stand, to the best of my knowledge, a Democrat filibuster is a possibility. If that occurs McConnell will be expected to press the button on the nuclear option. I don't think he will. He is an old timer with a lot invested in the Senate and will be loath to undermine his beloved institution and his buddies. Outrage and derision will follow.

A failure to use the nuclear option will neuter him just as Ryan's failure has neutered him.

Two veteran legislators, much too deferential to Democrats and government business as usual will be toast. Donald Trump will be in charge.

Happily Trump's list of Supreme Court nominees is long and excellent. The next one will be confirmed, on way or another. McConnell will have no choice but to press the nuclear button in round two.

Don  Surber is a writer whose work I have come across quite frequently. I find him generally to be thoughtful, smart and well informed. Yesterday he wrote,

"However, I realized it was a negotiating ploy to get a better deal. Not only that, but I realized by calling for the vote, President Trump had usurped House Speaker Paul Ryan's power."

Followed by a Trumpism,

"Negotiations 101: The best deals you can make are the ones you walk away from...and then get them with better terms."

Indeed.

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