Politics & Policy

Donald Trump, Raging at His Own Cabinet

President Trump, discussing repealing Obamacare, February 28: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

A comment attributed to the president on infrastructure, earlier this week: “The president — echoing his ill-received remarks about repealing the Affordable Care Act — has told people around him that he did not expect the process to be this difficult, according to one longtime adviser.”

“If [Attorney General Jeff Sessions] was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” President Trump said in a New York Times interview last week.

“So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?” — President Trump on Twitter yesterday.

Yesterday: “Trump was asked by a reporter if Sessions should resign. As interns laughed around him, Trump shook his head, rolled his eyes and smirked.”

President Trump on Twitter this morning: “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign – ‘quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the investigation A.G.” and, moments later, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”

President Trump, turning to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price at yesterday’s event with the Boy Scouts: “By the way, you’re going to get the votes? He better get ’em. He better get ’em. Ah, he better — otherwise, I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired!’” (Why is the president counting on his HHS Secretary to persuade those final reluctant Republicans? Didn’t he tout himself as the ultimate dealmaker?)

Everything is so much more complicated than he thought… and yet the president insists upon publicly attacking the people whom he selected to help enact his agenda.

The Outlook for Veterans Choice Suddenly Darkens

Remember yesterday when the House of Representatives was going to allocate another $2 billion to keep the Veterans Choice program going? The vote failed. Not because of a lack of support, as 219 Republicans voted for the bill, but it was brought to the floor of the House under rules that required a two-thirds majority. House Republicans thought they had an agreement with House Democrats to pass the additional $2 billion and then go back to reevaluate the program with an eye on the long term, but apparently too many House Democrats see Veterans Choice as a backdoor effort to privatize veterans care… so they’re willing to let money run out in early August. 

Quite a few Democrats seem strangely eager to declare the program a failure; Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., said, “The VA Choice program has failed to deliver on the promise of shorter wait times.” (Gee, do you think demand for the program increasing 50 percent from last year has anything to do with it?)

The chairman of the House Veterans Committee, Phil Roe, contends the Democrats backed out of a deal at the last minute.

“Last week, during a bipartisan member meeting, members of both parties came together and agreed to fund the Choice program for six months while Congress worked on other reforms,” the Republican from Tennessee said in a released statement. “This was a bipartisan agreement, and I’m disappointed the concerns raised on the House floor today were not mentioned during what I thought was an open and honest conversation. I will continue to fight tirelessly to ensure the Choice Fund does not run out of money so veterans can continue to access care.”

Veterans groups didn’t like the stopgap measure; one exception was Concerned Veterans for America. That group’s executive director, Mark Lucas, blasted the other veterans groups for putting the program at risk by opposing the temporary extension.

“The Veteran Service Organizations and members of Congress who used this as an opportunity to advance a misleading anti-choice agenda are standing directly between millions of veterans and their health care,” Lucas said. “They spread false information about Chairman Roe’s proposal in a transparent attempt to tie this bill to unnecessary VA spending. It didn’t look like they were opposing the Veterans Choice Program several months ago when they happily stood behind the President for a photo op as he signed an extension without the funding increases they are demanding today.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that Rep. Walz, who supported this measure as early as last week, flip-flopped on his position at such a critical moment,” Lucas concluded. “He let veterans down.”

And the NRCC started hitting House Democratic incumbents over their votes.

Charlie Gard Deserved Better. Everyone Did.

Some stories are too heartbreaking to spend much time examining; they’re so awful, and hit so close to home, we just turn away and choose to think of other things. Thank God Ian Tuttle is willing to watch the horrific saga of Charlie Gard. And he so succinctly summarizes the stomach and soul-turning injustice at the heart of this twisted process:

Successive courts in the United Kingdom and in Europe simultaneously found that Connie Yates and Chris Gard had devoted themselves unhesitatingly to their son’s welfare for ten months, and also that Yates and Gard could not be trusted to act in their son’s best interests . . . 

The question, then, is not what would Charlie Gard want — a question no one can answer. The question is what do we owe to people such as Charlie, who cannot speak for themselves? What duty of care do we owe them simply on account of their being human beings, who are by nature possessed of an inalienable dignity? What obligations do we have to those who suffer, and how should we understand their suffering? And, pertinent to this case, under what circumstances should the tightest bonds of affection — those between parent and child — be subordinated to the judgment of the state?

The precedent established by Charlie Gard’s case will metastasize, as similar decisions have. It will be made to apply to children with more-familiar illnesses and better prognoses; it will be used to dismiss the input of parents whose values and priorities when it comes to medical care and end-of-life issues do not align with those of the state; it may be used simply to clear beds for “worthier” patients in a health-care system with very limited resources. This, presumably, will be “compassionate,” too.

ADDENDA: Yesterday’s difficulty in saving Veterans Choice aside, the House of Representatives is passing legislation pretty regularly. Over on the home page, I have a piece detailing what Speaker Paul Ryan and the gang have been working on while the news cycle has obsessed over the Russia investigation and Trump’s tweets. Kate’s Law, a pay raise for the troops, punishments for “sanctuary cities,” class-action lawsuit reform, bills to streamline the approval process for gas and oil pipelines and electric transmission lines, accountability for the federal bureaucracy . . .  all awaiting action in the Senate.

Because of the particular Senate seats that are on the ballot in 2018 — 23 Democrats, two independents aligned with Democrats, and just eight Republicans — most political observers think it is unlikely that Democrats will be able to flip three seats and regain control of the Senate. Democrats feel much better about their odds of winning the House of Representatives. This month an ABC News/Washington Post poll gave Democrats a 14-point edge on the generic ballot question.

It would be a painful irony for the Republicans if some of their traditional voters or some of the Trump loyalists stayed home on Election Day 2018 out of a sense that the president is stymied by a “do-nothing Congress.” If that came to pass, GOP House members would find themselves paying the price for a national political conversation — including, arguably, the contributions of the current president — that finds their legislative accomplishments too boring to deserve much attention.

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