To dismantle Barack Obama’s signature achievement, maybe it makes sense to behave like the anti-Obama. President Trump’s predecessor spent more than a year guiding Congressional Democrats as they drafted, tuned and retuned the fine print on a healthcare package that aimed to remake a sixth of the economy. A grueling slog was made even longer by last-minute tweaks to satisfy the nonpartisan beancounters at the Congressional Budget Office. Reflecting on the process two years later, Obama copped to erring politically by sweating the details at the expense of the bigger picture. “The mistake of my first term — couple of years — was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right.” he said in a 2012 interview.
Trump’s team is taking a starkly different approach. House Republicans hatched their Obamacare repeal-and-replace proposal this week without holding any hearings. It’s not yet clear what the plan will cost or how many Americans will lose their insurance coverage, because the CBO hasn’t had a chance yet to produce an analysis. Early reviews have been rough, with array of healthcare industry groups announcing their opposition and some conservative Republican lawmakers urging a restart. As the package faces an uncertain future on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration is embracing it and diving head-long into the sales job. The CBO is primed to estimate insurance coverage losses in the millions, so White House press secretary Sean Spicer yesterday launched a preemptive attack on the agency’s credibility. Vice President Mike Pence heads to Louisville, Ky., this weekend to promote the measure, and Trump will headline a rally for it Wednesday in Nashville, followed by visits to several more cities in the coming weeks, according to the administration.
The stakes are nosebleed-high for Trump in the first test of his legislative muscle — and the outside-in approach so far defining it. Some keen observers of Obama’s presidency criticized him for not employing enough of that strategy himself, arguing he could have achieved more by leaving the Beltway bunker. In “The Escape Artists,” a book that chronicled the Obama team’s response to the financial crisis, journalist Noam Scheiber wrote that his administration harbored a “chronic confusion about the connection between politics and governing”:
Too often, the two activities were treated as an either-or proposition in the West Wing. Obama generally believed the way to pass his program was to engage earnestly with the opposition, not take his case public. A president never has more leverage with Congress than when he’s riling up voters, but Obama rarely exploited the massive stature of his office as a tool for influencing legislation.
Has the Trump team over-learned the lesson? The weeks ahead will reveal whether speed and blunt force can undo the work of a slow, deliberate plod.
Two key House committees voted along party lines Thursday to advance the measure, but it’s facing objections from the chamber’s hard-right flank and an array of industry groups.
The Treasury secretary warned lawmakers that the federal government will need to resort to “extraordinary measures” to continue servicing its debt later this month without a debt limit hike — moves that could buy a months-long extension.
McConnell: Tax reform unlikely by August [The Hill]
The Senate Majority Leader poured cold water on the administration’s ambition of wrapping work on a reform package by late summer.
The former Exxon Mobil CEO decided in early February against participating in a review of the project to avoid a potential conflict of interest, according to a letter the State Department sent Greenpeace.
Number of the day
The jobs added to the economy in the first full month of Trump’s presidency. The unemployment rate also ticked down, to 4.7%.
Why Politics Is Failing America [Fortune]
Trump SEC nominee’s online bio is scrubbed [Politico]