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Trumponomics Daily—Monday, February 27

Congressional Republicans return to work in Washington today after a bruising weeklong recess back home that brought many face-to-face with angry, angsty constituents. Voters who packed raucous town-hall meetings voiced concerns on a variety of issues, but the most common source of agita was the GOP’s push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This is how the worm turns: Popular opposition to the law helped Republicans begin retaking power on Capitol Hill six years ago; now in place but under threat, the law’s popularity is rising, posing arguably the stiffest and most consequential challenge to the Trump administration’s legislative agenda. With deep divisions among their members over both the process and policy for replacing the ACA, Republican leaders look poised to make the legislative equivalent of a blind leap as early as this week. They’re going to push a repeal measure forward on the hope their rank-and-file will fall in line rather than derail one of the party’s organizing pledges to its own voters.

Where is President Trump in all this? It isn’t clear. The White House so far hasn’t involved itself in trying to forge consensus among Hill Republicans — perhaps because senior administration aides are divided themselves. Trump continues to speak in public as if he’ll present his own replacement plan imminently. On Sunday night, he told 46 governors, gathered at the White House for an annual dinner, that “we have something that’s going to really be excellent.” And he indicated he’d preview it in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, his first primetime presidential address: “We’re going to be speaking very specifically about a very complicated subject,” he said.

But as recently as Friday, the Trump team appeared stuck at square one. In a 45-minute huddle on the subject with Ohio Gov. John Kasich — a onetime rival for the Republican nomination who’s embraced Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and pledged to defend it — Trump reportedly had to be reminded that House Republicans advocated a more fundamental overhaul of the law. The president said he preferred Kasich’s approach. Of the meeting, the Ohio governor afterward told reporters, “It takes time, so you have to explain it, and explain it again.”

Amid the intraparty disarray, at least one point of bipartisan agreement has emerged. Two former House speakers now say Republicans won’t deliver on the wholesale repeal of the law they promised. “They do not have the votes,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a Sunday interview with ABC, echoing the assessment of former Speaker John Boehner, who told a health conference last week that a full repeal and replace is “not what’s going to happen.” Instead, Boehner said, “they’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it.” Considering the challenges, that may be the GOP’s least worst option: Try to manage their base’s disappointment at accepting a fig leaf’s worth of reform in order to move on to more promising initiatives, like tax reform and infrastructure spending.

Tory Newmyer

Must Reads

Trump Budget Plan Will Not Cut Social Security, Medicare [Fortune]

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, previewing the president’s spending blueprint, says it will leave social welfare programs untouched

Competing Priorities Bog Down Efforts to Quickly Roll Back Dodd-Frank [WSJ]

Rising partisan rancor and a crowded Congressional calendar are stymying the Republican push to undo post-crisis financial reforms.

Trump Administration Reevaluating Self-Driving Car Guidance [Fortune]

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is reviewing guidelines issued by the Obama administration over which the auto industry raised numerous concerns.

Trump’s Navy Secretary Nominee Withdraws From Consideration for the Post  Fortune]

Philip Bilden, a private equity executive, said he couldn’t successfully navigate the federal government’s divestment requirements.

Al Gore Just Sold More Than $37 Million Worth of Apple Stock [Fortune]

The former vice president and current Apple board member sold a little less than half of his shares.

Democrats Must Overhaul Party, Attack Big Business, Sanders Says [Fortune]

The Vermont senator and former Democratic presidential candidate says the party needs a “total transformation,” and to be much more aggressive targeting Wall Street, the drug industry and others.

Loose change

Senate Poised to Confirm Wilbur Ross as Commerce Secretary [WSJ]

Business executives’ optimism surges under Trump, survey finds [CNN Money]

Trump set to remake FEC, name all commissioners [Washington Examiner]

Mexico Warns U.S. It’ll Cut Off Nafta Talks If Tariffs Proposed [Bloomberg]

The Best Anti-Trump Zingers From the Oscars [Fortune]