Trump Is Free From The Freedom Caucus To Cut A New Deal

The last card played by President Trump in the high-stakes game of repealing and replacing Obamacare was the defunding of Planned Parenthood. But his gamble failed, and now’s the time for him to cut a new deal.

Trump, called in by House Speaker Paul Ryan to be the “closer” in negotiations between House Republican factions, tweeted out at 8:30 Friday morning: “The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!”

Limiting the irony of the Republicans’ fiasco of a bill to its failure to mortally wound Planned Parenthood while it had the chance was no accident. The president knows what’s really at the heart of any deal for some in the Republican caucus. The red meat is ideology, not health insurance or governing.

Had Trump more than 140 characters to play with in his tweet, he could have noted several more ironies before House Republican leaders abruptly pulled the American Health Care Act moments before Friday’s scheduled vote. Take the name “Freedom Caucus” for the roughly three dozen hardliners who have been holding America hostage: so-called “pro-life” religious folks hell-bent on taking away life-saving medical care. It’s ironic that these self-described “smaller government” men want, on one hand, laws that require women to bear children and, on the other hand, laws that eliminate maternity and pediatric care as an essential benefit covered by insurance.

The Freedom Caucus says it wants government out of the health care business so people can be free to buy health insurance on the free market, but that’s impossible in the context of the real world in which most of us live.

The Freedom-From-Reality Caucus, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board dubs this group, ignores the reality of laws that require hospitals to treat sick people regardless of insurance or the ability to pay and overlooks already-entrenched and government-sponsored health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Imagine the free market for groceries if stores were required by law to give food to hungry people. Unless you are high on ideology, you simply can’t – but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve a marketplace with a safety net baked in.

In the wake of the humiliating House Republican meltdown on Obamacare repeal, the president should cut a deal with people who want to expand insurance coverage and reduce premiums. That is the “win-win” for the country that his administration needs, as I told him in a tweet: “@realDonaldTrump people want Affordable American Healthcare Act! AACA, or ‘Double A.’ Walk away from Freedom Caucus. They are losers!”

Do I like tweeting to the president of the United States using exclamation points in sentences that state the obvious? No, I do not, but when in Rome do as the Romans do, and when on social media, hurl epithets and exclamation points. It’s the new language of the new administration, and at least some of us are willing to compromise.

The alternative to the ridiculousness on display in the Capitol is easy to conjure for people outside the trench warfare of Washington politics. People want lawmakers to hammer out a deal, the terms of which seem so obvious: Democrats agree to support the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with 60 or more votes, and Republicans agree to improve rather than repeal a 7-year-old health care law that has expanded coverage, reduced the deficit and is very popular. Trump should free himself from the Freedom Caucus and work with Democrats and moderates to cut a deal. That’s the luxury of being an outsider.

In the current political climate of chaos and instability, the Ryan bill’s proposed jettisoning of the mental health treatment mandate is insane, and it’s odious that a group of men is being seduced with the prospect of eliminating women’s health care.

The president’s suggestion in his tweet that the elimination of Planned Parenthood should have made the deal irresistible to the extreme right was a strong message to other lawmakers who might have been on the fence. “Fiscal conservatism” is not driving the House proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Trump called the Republican game Friday, showed the party’s hand and then lost. Some think this will weaken his presidency, but I disagree. People who negotiate and make deals for a living learn from their mistakes. The president is free to deal with others, and I hope he does.

Published in the Huffington Post on 3-27-17.