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100 Days of Trump: Why Trump needs conservatives and conservatives need Trump

Ever since the House Republican leadership released their sadly inadequate Obamacare repeal and replace bill on Monday night, reaction from conservatives has been overwhelmingly negative.

Organizations such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Foundation panned the proposal, correctly arguing that it doesn’t actually repeal the hated Obamacare monstrosity and most likely would only make the situation Donald Trumpworse.

Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times wrote, “In lifting the curtain on its proposed replacement for Obamacare, the GOP leadership revealed a plan, eight years in the making, that replaces Obamacare entitlements with GOP entitlements. Call it ‘Abominable Care’ if you’re a die-hard free marketer…

“From a traditional conservative perspective, entitlements and government mandates are central to socialism. So the GOP leadership has shown the world once again it does not consider itself to be mankind’s last best hope for staving off socialism.”

One wonders how things could have gotten so far off track considering Republicans have talked about repealing Obamacare literally since before the law was even passed in 2010.

In theory, the solution is simple: put forward a bill (such as the 2015 GOP version) that repeals the Affordable Care Act and then work diligently to pick up the pieces from the political fallout by enacting legislation that allows Americans more choices and brings the costs down in buying health insurance. After seven years of study Republican leaders must have a pretty good idea where the problem areas are and what could be done to correct them.

Or, ditch for good the attempts at “one size fits all” national healthcare policy and turn the matter over to the individual states to solve.

With majorities in both houses of Congress and control of the White House Republicans should have a better than average shot at coming up with some sort of fix that will relegate Obamacare to the trash bin of history and still leave a solid majority of Americans feeling satisfied.

Unfortunately the “simple” path doesn’t seem to be getting much consideration due mostly to President Trump’s having joined the establishment to push for the Ryan bill while promising further reforms later on. It almost sounds a little like Nancy Pelosi’s famous “We have to pass the bill before we find out what’s in it” statement.

The whole affair has renewed discussion as to who is really controlling the direction of the GOP.

Jonathan S. Tobin writes at National Review, “A Trumpian party would be a place where conservative groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth — which are mobilizing against Ryan’s plan — no longer call the tune. But if, in spite of what we’ve heard from the White House since the bill was rolled out, the president either won’t or can’t force conservatives to bow to his will, then the belief that the GOP has been transformed from a conservative party to a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Trump, Inc., will have turned out to be false.”

Tobin takes the position that everyone knew Trump wasn’t a conservative and this type of split between conservatives and big government Republicans was bound to happen at some point. I think that’s only partially true.

Trump certainly holds some big government beliefs which likely stem from his lifelong partnerships with many interests – including government -- to build great projects and accomplish big things. Trump’s ideology is based on his innate belief that if you push hard enough and refuse to back down anything is possible.

Conservatives on the other hand see government itself as the problem as so famously articulated by Ronald Reagan. However, once in office Reagan compromised on a number of his limited government ideals in order to win the big battles (at least in his first term). The federal budget was never close to being balanced and he certainly didn’t end up reducing the size of the government overall.

Trump comes at it from an entirely different perspective. He never suggested blowing up government in the first place; instead he wants to harness government power to provide people benefits and fix things. He wants shining bridges and beautiful airports and roads paved with gold.

Not literally – at least the gold part. But Trump clearly believes if the economy starts growing as it should with less regulation and lower taxes, then the higher revenues generated could be put to work making America great again.

So where does that leave conservatives?

Not out in the cold, but in an unfamiliar position. Conservatives must continue to work with Trump and convince him that big government – like Ryan’s bill -- can’t solve every problem. But at the same time, conservatives are clearly only part of the Republican Party. Just as people knew beforehand that Trump wasn’t a conservative, conservatives realized long ago that the GOP is not a true limited government party.

Limited government conservatives are the base of the GOP but there are now a lot of “pragmatic” populist types who believe as Trump does – that government can set the rules and good outcomes will be achieved.

Time will tell who prevails on this one, but I would caution both sides to remember who the bigger “opponent” is in getting what they want – it’s those people across the aisle.

Trump appears to recognize it and is even making overtures to Ted Cruz to try and find common ground.

Alexander Bolton of The Hill reported yesterday, “President Trump appears to be courting Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), his onetime rival, to help sell the House’s healthcare plan to conservatives in Congress.

“The president and first lady Melania Trump hosted Cruz, wife Heidi, and their two children for dinner at the White House on Wednesday evening. The social occasion could help smooth over any lingering tension from their nasty 2016 primary.”

One can only imagine what the two families talked about. I’m guessing Ryan’s healthcare bill was but one of many topics. If there is anyone who might be able to convince Trump that conservatives cannot be stepped on in this matter, it’s Cruz.

The bottom line is Trump needs conservatives and conservatives need Trump. Up until now it’s been a successful partnership. The party seems to be in sync on matters outside of how much or how little to spend.

Going forward, the two sides will need to find a way to work it out – or everyone will end up with nothing.

With Ryancare, there is no reason to force a bad solution down everyone’s throats

In the already intense back-and-forth between conservatives and the GOP establishment over Paul Ryan’s horrific healthcare bill there are signs that some are coming to their senses and acknowledging the need to alter it. Or, in the alternative, lay blame at the real source of the problem: the Democrats who came up with Obamacare in the first place.

Josh Dawsey and Rachel Bade of Politico report, “In a private Oval Office meeting with conservative activists Wednesday, President Donald Trump sold Paul Ryan's health care bill as strong and necessary. But minutes later, his top aides offered some willingness to consider changing some of the core provisions, even as Trump himself suggested a fallback position — that they could try again in two years, and Obamacare will fail on its own, leaving Democrats to take the blame.

“In other words, Trump was ready to deal.”

This is music to many conservatives’ ears. The provisions in question concern the Ryan bill’s refundable tax credits which will essentially create another new federal entitlement and still not solve the main problem with Obamacare – the cost increases to small businesses and other individual insurers. The other serious area of disagreement was over the date Medicaid expansion would be frozen. Conservatives want it no later than 2018; Ryan’s bill pushes it back to 2020.

In other words, at least by appearances, Trump and his team look willing to move off the position of “pass this or else,” which is more akin to the strong-arm tactics the GOP congressional leadership always uses to pressure conservatives into caving.

It should be noted the Politico article indicated that the major changes insisted upon by conservatives may cause party “moderates” to bail out. Well, who’s in charge here anyway?

Isn’t it about time the “moderates” gave on something meaningful? Shouldn’t they join the “team” too?

There is also a movement in some circles of Congress to slow the process down – or perhaps just start over.

Pete Kasperowicz of the Washington Examiner reported, “Sen. Tom Cotton on Thursday told House Republicans to start over in their attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, and said the House bill will never pass in the Senate without ‘major changes.’

“’House health-care bill can't pass Senate w/o major changes,’ he tweeted from his @TomCottonAR account.

“’To my friends in the House: pause, start over. Get it right, don't get it fast.’”

That’s good common sense. The media reported the bill does not have much chance to pass in the Senate because of a lack of support from conservatives such as Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul (and of course, not a single Democrat). But if someone like Cotton is signaling he won’t support the Ryan bill either, it’s even deader than it was before…if it’s possible to be “deader”.

As Trump suggested above, Obamacare is set to collapse on its own sometime in the near future. Republicans could literally start over and try passing legislation that not only repeals Obamacare but also offers a real alternative according to conservative Republican principles. Democrats will certainly try to block it, but the matter then presents a political issue for Americans to weigh.

Our elected leaders owe us that choice. If the Ryan bill can’t be reworked to earn the support of conservatives, it should be tabled. Cotton is right – maybe it is time to just start over. Bring the process out in the open and let all sides have their say. Then vote on it.

It almost sounds like what the Founding Fathers had in mind, doesn’t it?

What a poll on Melania Trump tells us about the viability of Ryan’s healthcare bill

There is good news for the Trump family. First lady Melania Trump has become significantly more popular since inauguration day.

Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico reports, “According to a CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday, a majority of Americans have a favorable view of the first lady, who has largely been out of the public eye since her husband, the least popular president to enter office in modern times, was sworn in on Jan. 20.

“Fifty-two percent of Americans said they have a favorable view of Melania Trump. Nearly one-third, 32 percent, have an unfavorable view of her, while 3 percent have never heard of her and 12 percent have no opinion.”

The article indicates it’s a 16-point bump for Melania since her husband entered office. That’s all well and good, but I’m wondering about the 32 percent that see her unfavorably. Why in the world would anyone view Melania Trump unfavorably? Is there anything she’s done to cause anyone to dislike her?

No. The easy explanation for one out of three not liking her is guilt by association, which certainly indicates there are at least a third of the people in this country that aren’t persuadable to support President Trump under any circumstances.

How is this relevant? Well, it has a lot to do with what’s going on with the Ryan healthcare bill debate and how best to satisfy the voters. Not to sound too much like Mitt Romney and his infamous “47%” comment, but the people who are now receiving federal subsidies under Obamacare (that are literally killing the chance for reform) are not the ones who voted en masse for Trump last November 8.

It’s not that these people don’t matter. Everyone matters. #AllLivesMatter. But if the reason to keep people on the federal dole is in part an attempt to win more political points with them, this and other surveys supply plenty of evidence that they’re already unwilling to change their minds on Trump.

If they can’t even appreciate soft-spoken and elegant Melania, how can they ever like Donald? Unlike certain Democrat first ladies of the past 25 years Melania has not delved deeply into policy matters. Thus far she’s signaled an interest in working on internet safety for children and in planning White House receptions and events.

Again, what’s not to like?

Speaking of polls, by solid majorities Americans believe President Trump will accomplish his most important legislative goals in his first year.

Kaitlan Collins of the Daily Caller reports, “According to the results of a new Politico/Morning Consult Poll, 64 percent of voters think it’s ‘somewhat likely’ Trump can repeal the 2010 health care law, 62 percent believe he can replace it, 56 percent have faith he will pass a federal tax overhaul and 62 percent think he can pass an infrastructure spending bill.

“Those numbers decreased when voters were asked if it’s ‘very likely’ Trump will get these things down within the year.”

Such polls are helpful to assess the public’s overall impressions of the Trump presidency but they are too simple to be of much use for anything else. President Trump doesn’t have control of many of those issues – the Congress is the driver of legislation. That’s the way it should be.

The survey does give some indication that Americans believe Trump is a capable man who can and will get things done. I’d bet those numbers would have been significantly lower for Obama and George W. Bush, both of whom had basically lost the public’s confidence early in their presidencies (for Bush it was his second term).

It also underscores the need for conservatives and Trump to come to some sort of consensus on what needs to be done to fix the Obamacare mess. It’s pretty clear Paul Ryan and the establishment’s solution isn’t it.

The success of Trump’s entire agenda could hinge on finding a resolution to their very first serious disagreement.

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