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Conservative and moderate senators gather for lunch with Trump to discuss ObamaCare repeal
Art of the repeal?
I don't know if this gap can be bridged, but if there's a way to do it, it probably involves the two factions sitting down with the president of the United States and trying to work toward some sort of common ground. If Trump is the dealmaker he was in the private sector, he would seem to be the man for the job.
But one of the things that made Trump such a good negotiator in business is that he knew enough to walk away when there simply wasn't a good deal to be made. What if that's the case here, at least in the minds of the people he's gathering? What if there's simply no way the likes of Collins and Murkowski will be comfortable with anything Cruz and Lee insist on, and vice versa?
Can Trump still bring them together? At the very least, let's hope the food was good:
The group of 13 senators that Trump invited to lunch includes Republicans from both ideological camps: moderate Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were on the list, as well as conservative Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said senators are closer to bringing up a proposal, and other Republicans have predicted for some time that a bill would be ready for a vote before the August recess.
One of the senators invited to Tuesday's lunch, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, said late on Monday he did not expect a Senate healthcare bill to be unveiled this week.
"I think we've got a little ways to go," he told reporters. "There's a lot of things that have to be resolved."
One of the key issues is the fate of the expansion of Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor, under the Affordable Care Act.
Senators from states that expanded Medicaid are seeking a “glide path” that would phase out the additional federal funding for the program over a period of seven years starting in 2020, instead of the abrupt cutbacks in the federal funding starting in 2020 that are called for under the House bill.
But conservatives would prefer less, and Senate leadership has suggested a three-year phase-out of Medicaid expansion.
I'm not good at the prediction game, but it seems to me that the most likely way out of the Medicaid dispute is that the conservative senators will get a little - maybe one-year tightening of the glide-path - but you'll still be looking at a longish phaseout of maybe six years. I'm not suggesting I think that's the best policy. I don't. I'd go three years tops, and maybe even less than that.
But here's why I think it goes that way: A lot of states with Republican governors took the Medicaid expansion money, including my state of Michigan, where the usually clear-headed Rick Snyder didn't think through the long-term ramifications of his decision too clearly. John Kasich made the same bad decision in Ohio. I know not many here have any use for him, but he's still a Republican governor in an important state, and it wouldn't hurt to have his support on the repeal-and-replace bill.
It seems to me that the necessary political support will be harder to get from people like this than from more conservative governors of states that didn't go along with the Medicaid expansion. I also think you're risking less political fallout if you give people more time to plan for the change.
Cruz and Lee won't like it, but if I had to guess I'd say they take a face-saving reduction of a year or so on the glide path, and everyone declares victory because - although it won't be perfect - they'll finally have a bill that gets rid of ObamaCare. I wouldn't even be surprised if they're discussing that very thing over lunch with Trump today.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!