by Josh Marshall //Talking Points Memo
The outlook for the GOP leaderships' 'repeal and replace' bill looks bleak. That said, I would not underestimate the ability of GOP leaders to get their members to vote for basically anything in the crunch. Also remember that House Republicans have a 20+ vote cushion. But it's worth reviewing what I believe are three key reasons why the current legislation looks to be on life support just a day after it was released.
***big change in the American system requires laws. Whether it's on Obamacare or tax reform or anything else. It's hard. President Trump doesn't want to do it.
Now, President Obama also came to rely on executive orders in the latter part of his presidency. But remember, he faced an implacable Republican Congress. Trump faces a pliant one. Even with total control of the government, executive orders are all he has energy to focus on. When it's not executive orders, President Trump is off on rage tangents yelling at the air over fantasies about his predecessor, well out of office, plotting against him. I talk DC lobbyists now and then, ones in Trump's crosshairs and those he supposedly favors and none of them have any idea what he's going to do from one day to the next. That's not strategic ambiguity. It just keeps anyone from doing anything. Could Trump put more time into this if he weren't in the midst of a mini-constitutional crisis over accusing his predecessor of illegally wire-tapping him? Probably so ...
As I noted in Point #1, Republicans gained electoral advantage by setting a trap they really had no way to solve. But presidential engagement and focus would have made a great deal of difference. It's not there.
At the end of the day, the consequences for Republicans if they can't do anything are astonishingly large. I would not count them out. But it's a tall order. And it's not just passage. It's surviving the consequences next year.