The House is led by a man, Speaker Paul Ryan, who is very smart and very rational. That doesn’t always get results.
While Ryan was doing what seemed to be the perfectly reasonable thing, counting lawmakers’ votes, President Trump was counting votes of a different kind: The number of votes that had been taken on the floor of the House on Obamacare repeal. The number was, zero. Zero votes.
What Trump, who is also very smart but does not always act so rational — sometimes on purpose — understood is that it’s very easy for people to say, No, this is my place in the road, and I’m not budging from it. But once those headlights are bearing down on you . . .
Ryan hastily scheduled a vote because the White House kept demanding it and Congress was about to leave town. Thursday was the last day, and so, under relentless pressure from Trump and White House Cheif of Staff Reince Priebus, who was desperate to get a health care win to ensure a little job security, a vote was scheduled for Thursday.
It is only when Republicans sensed that they were actually going to have to vote on the bill — when they saw the headlights coming — that they fell into line and got out of the way. They faced voting to preserve Obamacare and potentially ruining Trump’s presidency, so they found reasons to support the measure.
Like another $8 billion to help guarantee care for those with pre-existing conditions, the deal that brought along Rep. Fred Upton and some GOP moderates. Seriously, $8 billion and this sprawling legislation suddenly okay? I think Upton just felt the pressure.
And pressure he got. According to Politico:
Sitting in the Oval Office Tuesday evening, Trump dialed Upton in his congressional office. The president raised his voice and swore at Upton several times during a 10-minute conversation, sources familiar with the call said. But Upton stood his ground. He explained that he, like Trump, wanted to ensure people with pre-existing conditions were protected, even quoting the president verbatim talking about the need to do so.
Upton didn’t stand his ground. I’m sure that’s the spin coming from the House. Trump bruised him up and then threw him an $8 billion bone and Upton caved.
“They kept saying, ‘You need to vote! You need to call the vote!’ But we were trying to give this space and time to develop as opposed to a pressure cooker,” said one House Republican aide. “We needed to let this play out a little bit. But the White House just couldn’t let this go.”
Well, it was the pressure cooker that worked. Upton hinted a couple of days ago that his conversation with Trump was unpleasant. He felt the pressure. It was a tactic, though nothing personal. Trump, as a businessman, once went into a tirade on the phone, hung up, and then calmly asked an observer, “Do you think it worked?”
Upton and Trump convened at the White House on Wednesday for a much more pleasant meeting. “The president was happy to sign off on their deal,” one senior administration official familiar with the meeting said. “It was all peace and love.”