Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Obamacare Vote Approaches

Tomorrow the ACA-Repeal House vote happens. Although it has taken some time, Trump is now coming out pretty strongly in favor of it, threatening to "come after" congressmen who vote "no." Starting today, the sense is that Trump-Ryan don't quite have the votes to pass it but it'll be close. With all of today and some of tomorrow, it seems likely that if pressure can work then it will work.

The question is: will pressure work?

The Trajectory of the Repeal

Before we get into arm-twisting, let's be real about something: the House wants a more conservative repeal, the Senate wants a less conservative repair/replace. These are going, for the most part, in two different directions so getting a bill that would pass both will be "a challenge," and by "a challenge," The Omnivore means "Good freakin' luck."

So the win-win-lose for the GOP is that the bill passes the House, dies in the Senate, and then everyone throws up their hands and plans for "something better" by 2019. This gives everyone a chance to say "We tried" to their constituents without (necessarily) ejecting anyone off their healthcare (O-Care will suffer badly and if nothing is done to remediate that, people could lose coverage--but that, at least, isn't on a positive-action from Congress).

So . . .

Will Pressure Work?

On the plus side, according to a just-released poll of Trump voters, only 3% of them would change their vote if they could. Most Trump voters are still quite enthusiastic. While this may seem bizarre to the rest of us, keep in mind that these people are living in a world where everyone lies the same way Trump does--he's just a bit less polished about it. As such, you don't have to believe any information you don't especially like.

If Trump is still the alpha-dog then he can, presumably, mobilize his base in a primary-challenge against incumbents who vote against him.

There are two problems with this, however:

  1. If Trump lost 3% of his vote from last November, it'd be President Hillary by 303 to 228 EV. Trump lost the popular vote and only won his EV by a slim margin. If he's disappointing people, and to some degree he is, his margin is pretty fragile.
  2. Trump's core is very, very supportive but Trump isn't going to change his spots. The question asked was whether you'd change your vote to Hillary, Johnson, or Stein (or not-vote). It didn't ask if you'd rather have had Ted Cruz . . . or if Joe Biden had run against Trump if you'd have switched to him. As such, if you have a popular House member, even if you're a GOP voter who hadn't switched to Hillary (or one of the non-starters), that may not be enough to give him power to primary.
Keep in mind that this bill is historically unpopular. For a candidate, that may not be meaningful since you have limited options (Hill-vs.-Don). For a bill, though, if it doesn't make anyone really happy, why pass it at all?

The only real arguments Trump seems to be making are (a) because we said we would and (b) because I told you to. This is a bad position from which to marshal strength.

So Force Won't Work?

Abject force, in this sense, will probably not. The key, however is that if everyone is pretty sure that the House-approves / Senate-rejects thing is a done-deal then they can vote for the bill with the knowledge that it'll be a long, long time before anything material happens. In that environment, The Omnivore thinks: "Yes, it can pass." That's where he would marginally bet if he were a betting Omnivore.

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