House Republicans gathered with President Trump in the White House Rose Garden to celebrate the House’s passage of the AHCA. Trump lauded the bill’s success with characteristic eloquence:
I will say this: that as far as I’m concerned, your premiums—they’re going to start to come down. We’re going to get this passed through the Senate. I feel so confident. Your deductibles, when it comes to deductibles, they were so ridiculous that nobody got to use their current plan, this nonexistent plan that I heard so many wonderful things about over the last three or four days after that, I mean it’s—I don’t think you’re going to hear so much right now. The insurance companies are fleeing. It’s been a catastrophe.
And this is a great plan. I actually think it will get even better and this is, make no mistake, this is a repeal and replace of Obamacare. Make no mistake about it. Make no mistake. And I think most importantly, yes, premiums will be coming down. Yes, deductibles will be coming down, but very importantly, it’s a great plan, and ultimately that’s what it’s all about.
The caucus amassed behind Trump, all smiles as he and Paul Ryan spoke, to inflate the bigness of the moment. The bill hasn’t passed Congress yet. It, in fact, will never pass. Senate Republicans announced Thursday afternoon that they won’t vote on the AHCA and will instead write new legislation of their own, taking parts of the AHCA they like and discarding the rest. The bill, in essence, is already dead.
One wonders what kind of stagecraft the White House will produce if and when something does clear Congress—perhaps a setup less likely to distract the president than this one, which, toward the end of his speech, did. “Coming from a different world and only being a politician for a short period of time, how am I doing,” he turned and asked the caucus. “Am I doing OK? I’m president! Hey! I’m president! Can you believe it? Right?”
Paul Ryan took to the podium after Trump to say that Trump was not only president, but the most legislatively dedicated president he had served under. “This is the fourth presidency I’ve served with,” he said. “I have never, ever seen any kind of engagement like this.”
After Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise took to the podium to offer more rhetoric about how Obamacare is teetering on the edge of collapse. (It is not.) They lied about the undermining of Obamacare’s pre-existing condition protections; had nothing to say about the bill’s impact on Obamacare’s guaranteed essential health benefits; were mute on the $600 billion in tax cuts over the next decade that will go mostly to investors and families making over a quarter of a million dollars a year; were silent on the 24 million people the Congressional Budget Office says could lose insurance under the original draft of the bill; were mum on why they refused to wait for the CBO’s score on amendments that could increase that number; and offered neither explanation nor remorse for the fact that many congressmen, like Illinois’ John Shimkus, preoccupied by baseball practice this morning, had not even bothered to read the bill.*
This last bit was a sticking point for Republicans in 2010, especially then-Minority Leader John Boehner, before Obamacare passed, as was the alleged secrecy of Democrats in putting that bill together:
Look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals and struck behind closed doors? Hidden from the people? Hell no, you can’t! Have you read the bill? … Hell no, you haven’t!
In early March, House Republicans hid the AHCA in a secret room in the basement of the House. Not even Republican Sen. Rand Paul could see it. They’ve loosened up about these things. In the Rose Garden on Thursday, House Republicans looked like they’d sunnied up in general. Maybe it was just the beer they wheeled into the Capitol in celebration this afternoon. Maybe it was the prospect of kicking millions of poor Americans off Medicaid. It was probably both.
*Correction, May 5, 2017: This post originally misspelled Rep. John Shimkus’ last name.