It Is About Understanding the System to Get What You Want

It Is About Understanding the System to Get What You Want

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

There is nothing normal about the Trump Presidency except that it is not normal. Every day brings something new. It has reached the point where these occurrences are not exciting or even curious, but frightening. Many are holding their breath waiting for the first global crisis to hit; North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, etc. The proof of this growing national anxiety is in Trump’s poll numbers, where, except for his core faithful, Trump cannot rally a national consensus behind him; absent the suspect Rasmussen poll.

The clearest manifestation of this persistent concern about the President comes from his unceasing lying and disrespecting the institutions of Government, especially when they challenge him, his statements, or his tweets. It began with the CIA and that was followed by the FBI, the Justice Department, the State Department, and the EPA. It does not end there. Before this morning’s strong economic figures were released, it was anticipated that Trump would rail out against the economists at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. No one knows what the President soon will soon when the Federal Reserve Board, as anticipated, raises interest rates.

Similarly, there are very many questions concerning the language in the Ryan-Trump healthcare package which has already been passed by two House Committees and is awaiting House floor action.  There is a much more serious institutional problem in the speed with which the bill is moving ahead. No one has seen anything like this since Ronald Reagan’s OMB director David Stockman drove the Congress to vote on the bi-partisan Economic Recovery Tax Act in the summer of 1981 within one month of its introduction.  Revisions were being made in the bill literally on the floor of Congress and most Members did not even know the details upon which they were voting.

The problem with what is proceeding now in Congress on healthcare is that the non-partissan Congressional Budget Office (currently directed by a Republican) will not even be producing the cost markers of this bill until next week by which time the bill may well have already moved to the Senate. While this obviously has significant ramifications for bill itself, it also impacts the critical type of procedure under which Congress—the Senate in particular—will be able to consider the bill. If the costs are not deficit neutral, the bill will undoubtedly require 60 votes, not a simple majority to pass, and given the controversy that the bill has generated across the political spectrum and throughout the country, that is unlikely to happen.  

The issue of revising or repealing Obamacare is that the Speaker knows what he wants and what he is doing; the more conservatives know what they oppose; but no one really knows what the President wants. In addition, Trump presumably has no appreciation for the more technical aspects of legislating. He is only familiar with a style whereby he gets what he wants; the Trump negotiating operation. As Trump did in rolling out his ill-conceived and never properly vetted immigration executive order, the President believes he always should get want he wants. If they proceed with jamming this bill through, Trump will frustrate the Congress, the conservatives, and, eventually, his own supporters.

When Members returned to their districts recently they heard constituents’ fears that they will lose their newly obtained healthcare benefits. If the Trump voters eventually feel this effect, then in the name of racing to a victory, Trump, Ryan, and the Republican Party could end up being roasted on their own petards. If the public is deceived and when the new law eventually takes effect, Trump and those who voted to take away their healthcare, may end up receiving voters’ wrath in November 2018 and again in 2020.

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