The White House issued a warning to Republicans yesterday. In the wake of the failure of the president’s health care reform bill, the Trump Administration signaled that it is willing to reach out to Democrats to advance its agenda if it can’t win support from the various Republican factions.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus underscored the potential shift in strategy on “Fox News Sunday” (quoted in the Wall Street Journal). “This president is not going to be a partisan president,” Priebus said. “I think it’s time for our folks to come together, and I also think it’s time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well.”
When asked if President Trump would move on from health care reform and allow the implosion of Obamacare to run its course as he threatened in a tweet, Politico notes that Priebus answered, “I don’t think the president is closing the door on anything.”
“It’s more or less a warning shot that we are willing to talk to anyone. We always have been,” he said in Time. “I think more so now than ever, it’s time for both parties to come together and get to real reforms in this country.”
Since the decision to remove the AHCA bill from consideration on Friday, President Trump has alternately blamed the Democrats, blamed the House Freedom Caucus and reached out to Democrats.
The Washington Times reports that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was receptive to Trump’s overtures. “We Democrats, provided our Republican colleagues drop [repeal and replace] and stop undermining the ACA, are willing to work with our Republican friends — as long as they say no more repeal,” Mr. Schumer said. Schumer added in Time that, “if he changes, he could have a different presidency.”
With Republicans holding 52 seats in the Senate, virtually all reform legislation is subject to Democrat filibusters. A minimum of eight Democrats must cross over to kill the filibuster and allow a vote on any individual bill.
The Resurgent speculated in January that President Trump might forge a bipartisan coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans on a number of issues where the president’s platform is at odds with traditional Republican principles. During the campaign, Mr. Trump said that he wouldn’t mind being a “free agent” in his dealings with Congress.
The price for dealing with the Democrats on health care would be giving up the full repeal of Obamacare. Republicans currently don’t have enough votes for repeal, but many, including those in the House Freedom Caucus, would refuse to vote for anything less. The price of bringing Democrats on board other items in the Republican agenda, from tax reform to immigration, is likely to be just as unpalatable.
The more the president moves to the left to appeal to Democrats, the more Republicans he will lose. The question is whether he can find a workable majority in the middle.