Nearly three weeks after Republican infighting sank an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump dug back into the battle on Wednesday, threatening to withhold payments to insurers to force Democrats to the negotiating table.Using some unpleasant imagery, New York magazine's Eric Levitz explains why this is unlikely to be an effective negotiating strategy:
In an interview in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said he was still considering what to do about the payments approved by his Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama, which some Republicans contend are unconstitutional. Their abrupt disappearance could trigger an insurance meltdown that causes the collapse of the 2010 health law, forcing lawmakers to return to a bruising debate over its future.
1) Trump’s hostage and his ransom are the same thing: He’s threatening to cut off health-insurance subsidies for poor people if Democrats don’t vote for his health-care plan, which significantly reduces health-insurance subsidies for poor people.So Democrats have no motivation to negotiate, because Trump is offering two choices: screw the public now or screw the public later. Trump doesn't want to negotiate with Democrats at all, really -- he wants Democrats to surrender.
2) It will be hard to convince the public to blame Democrats for Obamacare’s destruction, after you publicly declared your intention to destroy Obamacare so that people would blame the Democrats for what you did....
The president doesn’t want to shoot this hostage, but Democrats should be calling him up and begging him not to shoot the hostage. They should be grateful for the chance to negotiate a deal in which he merely cuts off all the hostage’s fingers. After all, who is the public gonna blame for the hostage’s murder: the people who loved [the hostage], or the guy with the gun shouting all of this through a bullhorn?
Which is not what we were told to expect after the Republican repeal bill failed. Here were the headlines: "Trump Signals He's Ready to Work With Democrats"; "White House: Trump Is Serious About Working with Democrats"; "Trump Says He’s ‘Absolutely’ Serious About Working with Democrats." We were urged to imagine a newly moderate president who rejected partisanship and worked with anyone, from either side of the aisle, who could help him advance legislation. We were told that Trump had run against his own party and never really had any loyalty to the GOP in the first place.
That's a misreading of the situation. He might be favoring moderate (and occasionally Democratic) advisers right now, but he's still a Fox-junkie Republican. He still believes Obamacare is evil because he's had that drummed into his head for seven years by Fox commentators. During the campaign he deviated from Republican orthodoxy on a few issues, but he thought his heterodox beliefs should be Republican orthodoxy.
He was never going to agree to preserve and strengthen Obamacare. He was never going to move left to single payer, or even a public option. He's not going to tax the rich either. He's unlikely even to put a lot of new spending (as opposed to tax breaks for developers) into an infrastructure bill, if he ever gets around to one.
I keep telling you: Trump is a Republican. Until Fox goes moderate, he won't.