Early Returns

Republicans Aim to Win the Health-Care Blame Game

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

Would we call that enthusiasm?

Photographer: Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images

What to make of the seeming momentum for a Republican health-care bill in the Senate? 

On the one hand, a bit of caution might be in order. There still isn't a bill. There isn't a Congressional Budget Office score. Republicans must keep their relative moderates on board without losing the most conservative senators; they may be achieving that, and they're still a few steps away from that. It wouldn't be the first time that a bill seemed to have momentum only to fall short once the actual votes were counted.

That said, it's also quite possible that Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders have threaded the needle. 

I continue to see the bill's progress not as a case of Republican politicians having enthusiasm for what they are passing, but a real fear of receiving the blame for killing off the repeal of Obamacare, the party's biggest legislative agenda for the last seven years. Right now, Paul Ryan and House Republicans overall are winning because they passed something (it doesn't matter what). It remains quite possible that congressional Republicans will wind up backing their way into actually enacting a law despite many, perhaps even most, believing there's a good chance it will backfire on them. 

In other words, this is not a case like the passage of the Affordable Care Act, in which most Democrats who supported it really wanted the bill to pass even if they understood the electoral danger involved. If any Republicans in Congress strongly support the bill they've been working on, they're doing a very good job of hiding that enthusiasm. This time, it's all about ducking blame. 

1. Dan Drezner was ... not impressed with my case for how Donald Trump could reach adequacy. I of course agree with everything he says about Trump, and we're not actually likely to get a trial run for this one (because it won't be imposed on him), but I still think many people are vastly underestimating how much of a difference a first-rate chief of staff can make. 

2. Dave Hopkins on the James Comey hearing. As he says, perhaps the most notable thing was that Senate Republicans were hardly eager to defend Trump.

3. Diana B. Greenwald and Mark Tessler at the Monkey Cage on Palestinian public opinion about institutions. 

4. My Bloomberg View colleague Noah Feldman on new trouble for Trump from Comey's testimony. 

5. Alyssa Rosenberg on Comey's performance

6. And Kevin Kosar on the U.S. Post Office

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    To contact the author of this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

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    Brooke Sample at bsample1@bloomberg.net

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