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Recapping The Week In Politics And What's Ahead


President Trump has been urging voters to pressure Congress to pass a replacement to the Affordable Care Act. He spoke in a video message.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Go with our plan. It's going to be terrific. You're going to be very, very happy. Call your local representative. Call your senator. Let them know that you're behind our plan.

INSKEEP: So far, many lawmakers do not seem very, very happy nor do interest groups or conservative groups, nor is it easy to say the plan matches the president's own promises to voters. The House delayed a vote on the plan last night when it was apparent it didn't have enough votes to pass. They say they will try again today.

And we're going to talk this through with Jonah Goldberg of National Review who's on the line from our New York bureaus.

Jonah, good morning.

JONAH GOLDBERG: It's great to be here.

INSKEEP: Did the president underestimate how hard this was going to be?

GOLDBERG: Oh, I think that's obvious. I mean, he even said no one knew how complicated health care (laughter) reform could be, which is something pretty much everyone...


GOLDBERG: ...In Washington has known for a very long time. And part of the problem is as a - he has a lot of experience as a salesman. But normally, when you're a salesman of the kind that he is, the modus operandi is - well, I'll come down on price, or I'll give you something new. And this isn't like saying - well, look, I'll install, you know, electric toilet seat warmers. This is something else. And the...

INSKEEP: Actually, the toilet seat warmers might improve this bill. There might be a couple of votes you could get out of that.

GOLDBERG: That might bring the Freedom Caucus around (laughter).


GOLDBERG: But - and - in some ways, I think Donald Trump has done everything that you could expect a president to do once this ball got rolling. He brought people in. He tried to twist arms. But - and I think a lot of the blame for this mess falls on the fact that this was rolled out too quickly but also that the Freedom Caucus, these 29 or so conservative members of the House - they basically only know how to exist as creatures of opposition.

And it's very difficult for them to get in a sort of play-ball mindset because they have so little experience with it. And this is sort of what their fundraising model is, their rhetorical model is. And they haven't been able to let go to a certain extent. And there's an enormous amount of frustration within the GOP caucus about it.

INSKEEP: The president has already made some pretty profound concessions here to go along with this bill at all. In 2015, when he was getting ready to run for president, he said, quote, "I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican. And I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid." And here he is urging passage of a bill that takes hundreds of billions of dollars in projected spending out of Medicaid.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, although I think there is this idea that somehow all of this will be fixed later. And this is part of the problem that Paul Ryan has set up for himself by - they need this health care reform to go through if they're going to do what they want to do in tax reform because this - the healthcare reform has, like, a trillion dollars or so in cuts in it.

If those don't go through, then the baseline from which that they try to cut taxes more and tax reform is all messed up. And it's this parlay that is very difficult to see how they can get all the other stuff they want done if they don't get this done first at this point.

INSKEEP: Do you have a fundamental ideological problem here because you have a lot of Republicans who really just don't think the government ought to be in this business at all? But you have millions of people who are getting health insurance right now. And a lot of Trump voters are not so ideological and expect to be taken care of in some way. You have a fundamental, ideological problem here of people writing a bill to do something they don't think that they ought to be doing anyway.

GOLDBERG: Well, look my whole life these days is about fundamental ideological problems.


GOLDBERG: But, yes - no, look, I'm not a huge fan of the Ryancare thing. At the same time, I think that, you know, Republicans and conservatives have been saying for years, if Obamacare passes, it'll be almost impossible to get rid of, and it'll change American life; if Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, it'll be even harder to get Obamacare repealed and all this. They were right. We were right when we said that. And so this idea that you can do everything you want on the first go-around just strikes me as incredibly naive.

You know, this is going to take - fundamental health care reform of a conservative variety is going to have to be done in stages no matter what. And it seems to me that this is the first step on that journey. And I think that a lot of the conservative ideologues would rather have - and I consider myself a conservative ideologue - but a lot of them would rather have the issue than the fix.

INSKEEP: Crazy question in a few seconds - Republicans would need Democratic votes anyway to complete the overhaul of Obamacare, the replacement of it. Should they just negotiate with Democrats and come up with something a little more modest, a little more modest change?

GOLDBERG: Well, I do think, you know, everyone's focusing on the recalcitrance and dysfunction of the Republicans. But the Democratic approach to all of this has been, you know, this is a third rail. You will not touch this. This is the holy of holies. We will not do anything that counts as repealing or even looks like repealing Obamacare. And that has narrowed the margin of what Republicans can work with 'cause they have to pass everything with their own votes in their own caucus. The dysfunction is bipartisan.

INSKEEP: OK. Jonah, thanks very much. A pleasure as always.

GOLDBERG: Great to be here. Thank you.

INSKEEP: Jonah Goldberg, senior editor with the National Review and a columnist for The LA Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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