The GOP Is Better Locally Than Nationally

by Charles C. W. Cooke

North Dakota has quietly passed “constitutional carry”:

BISMARCK, N.D. – Governor Doug Burgum today signed legislation allowing law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed handgun if they have possessed a valid North Dakota driver’s license or state ID card for at least a year.

In other words, those who wish to carry a concealed handgun in North Dakota no longer need the state’s permission to do so. North Dakota becomes the seventh state in two years to take this step, and the 13th overall. By the end of this year, that number will likely be 17.

This news broke at the same time as the news that the Republicans had flamed out in the first (maybe last?) attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. And the contrast underscored something I’ve noticed for a while: At the state level, the GOP has been remarkably effective at ushering in reform over the last seven years; at the federal level, by contrast, it has been able only to hold the line.

This, of course, is partly because the GOP has only just got full control of the federal government, whereas it has been running most of the states for half a decade now. But one can’t help but notice the difference in ambition. At the state level, Republicans have ruthlessly passed right to work legislation, even in unlikely places such as Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin; they have expanded charter schools; they have done yeoman’s work restoring the Second Amendment; they have cut taxes and regulation; and they have enacted as many pro-life measures as the courts have allowed. They have, in other words, lived up to their billing.

At the federal level, meanwhile, they have narrowed their intentions from the get-go. Under Donald Trump, there will be no entitlement reform, and possibly no healthcare reform either; there will likely be a massive, goodie-laden “infrastructure” bill, of the sort that GOP likes to rail against when a Democrat is in the White House; no departments will be shuttered, or radical structural changes made to the federal behemoth; and the promise of tax reform — that is, a substantial change to the way the system works — has already been replaced by “tax cuts.” How strange the difference in achievement between the local and the national.

The Endgame

by Rich Lowry

We’re starting to get reporting on the internal details of the health-care debate. This bit from Shane Goldmacher and Josh Dawsey at Politico on the final hours is notable:

But even as Trump and his top advisers wanted to forge ahead, they were showing sign of worry. Spicer no longer embraced the term “the closer.” GOP leadership pushed to drop what was now seen as a kamikaze mission. And a little after 3 p.m., Trump talked to Ryan again — the two had a 45-minute conversation late Thursday night about the law.

“He talked to Paul Ryan for a few minutes, who said he was at least 10 and 15 votes short,” one of the senior White House officials said. Ryan said he planned to pull the vote unless Trump objected, and Trump said he was OK with that.

Ryan explained soon after what it meant to a national television audience: “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

Trump got off the phone, scribbled down some notes and dialed up reporters to give his side before the full White House staff was even briefed. The president was most focused on the news coverage and how it reflected on him, as he had been throughout, telling advisers how much the criticism of the law on TV bothered him.

And our former colleague Tim Alberta has an excellent long piece for Politico magazine that describes how fuzzy Trump was on the details, which limited his persuasiveness. Here is his account of a meeting on Thursday:

Filled with hope once again, Freedom Caucus members were once again promptly disappointed. This meeting was yet another “take one for the team” seminar. The atmosphere was friendly, and the president had the group laughing with irrelevant riffs and stories of negotiations past, but it became clear, as soon as he made the “little shit” comment, that no serious changes were going to be made, because the president didn’t have sufficient command of the policy details to negotiate what would or would not be realistic for Ryan to shepherd through the House.

Through charm, force of personality and sheer intimidation, Trump did move some votes into the yes column. But GOP leaders were left wondering why he didn’t do more—why he didn’t send tweets, travel to congressional districts, put his famed dealmaking skills to work. The answer, to Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, is obvious: Because he lacked familiarity with the legislation itself, and thought it was Ryan’s job to sell the specifics.

“Trump is a business executive. When he tells his lieutenants to get something done, he’s used to it getting done,” one senior House GOP aide told me. “He’s really not used to getting involved himself.”

 

Don’t Give Up After 3 Lackluster Weeks

by Rich Lowry

Our editorial notes that a silver living is that progress was made on forging a party consensus on replace and urges the GOP not to quit after less than a month at this:

Cutting regulations could be key to finishing the unification of the party. The Congressional Budget Office has previously found that cutting down on Obamacare regulations would increase coverage, since it would make it possible for people to buy low-premium coverage they prefer. While some specific deregulatory measures make moderate Republicans jittery — even a careful relaxation of the rules governing pre-existing conditions would induce some queasiness — improving the coverage numbers would allay their main concern about replacing Obamacare. Expanding the tax credit for people making a little bit too much money to qualify for Medicaid could allay it more.

This basic approach would be compatible with a variety of legislative tactics. House Republicans could try to pass an aggressive bill without much regard for whether it can pass the Senate: At least they would have outlined and stood for a set of health-care policies that make sense, that offer something for conservatives and moderates, and that can serve as the basis for future action. Or they could work with the parliamentarian and with senators to see whether they could get a bill better than this week’s past the finish line.

If they went this route, Republican leaders would not spring a new bill on their followers and allies and tell them they have to vote for it posthaste. There would have to be more patient cajoling and less last-minute bullying. We know many Republicans on the Hill and inside the White House feel that they have already spent enough time on this issue. But we have no sympathy for this complaint. They have spent seven years saying they were going to replace Obamacare. They didn’t say they were going to spend a few weeks on a half-baked plan and then give up. Back to work, ladies and gentlemen.

What an Engaged Party and President Looks Like

by Rich Lowry

Philip Klein has a brutal assessment of the GOP failure on Obamacare that includes this paragraph reminding us of what Democrats did to push the ball over the finish line:

One has to admire the commitment that Democrats and Obama had to delivering something they campaigned on and truly believed in. They spent 13 months getting the bill from an initial concept to final passage, and pressed on during many points when everybody was predicting doom. They had public hearings, multiple drafts of different bills, they kept negotiating, even worked into Christmas. They made significant changes at times, but also never lost sight of their key goals. They didn’t back down in the face of angry town halls and after losing their filibuster-proof majority, and many members cast votes that they knew risked their political careers. Obama himself was a leader, who consistently made it clear that he was not going to walk away. He did countless rallies, meetings, speeches — even a “summit” at the Blair House — to try to sell the bill, talking about details, responding to criticisms of the bill to the point that he was mocked by conservatives for talking so much about healthcare.

A Debacle with Many Fathers

by Rich Lowry

Paul Ryan is going to take the most blame for the failure of repeal and replace, and rightly so. He had the ball, and it ended up being a debacle. He gambled this his close vote would be more like the close votes of Nancy Pelosi, who had a president of her own party standing with her, rather than those of John Boehner, who didn’t. Instead, this was Boehner redux. There was no getting around that the substance of the bill was poor and the process–premised on passing the bill through the House and the Senate in four weeks–was even worse. It was only going to get over the finish line based on pure muscle and there are limits to what that can achieve, even in the House where the leadership has such inherent power. 

If the loss is a blow to Ryan, it’s a party-wide failure. It’s not as though the Speaker came up with the bill and the strategy on his own. President Trump and the Senate were on board. I assumed that Trump would end up being a good intra-party salesman, with a carrot (his knack for schmoozing) and a stick (attacks on Twitter). But he didn’t know enough to be effective and his seat-of-the-pants decision to give into the Freedom Caucus on “essential health benefits” lost more moderates than it gained conservatives, while Trump clearly had no idea of the policy implications. His insistence during most the day that the House hold a zombie vote, going through with the floor vote even when a defeat was assured, was bizarre and amateurish.

Maybe Congress and the administration can transition relatively smoothly to tax reform, but I doubt that’s going to be any easier–it’s just as complicated and also involves using reconciliation to avoid a filibuster. An alternative route would be to try to do a smaller corporate tax reform with some Democratic votes, although so many Democrats are opposed to Trump as a matter of principle, that may be impossible. If tax reform bogs down, the White House may feel it has no choice but to resort to Obama-style unilateral governance, emphasizing Trump’s core issues of immigration, trade, and his war with the media/leakers, where he has a lot of authority to act on his own.

Dogs Detect Cancer from Bandage

by Wesley J. Smith

This is amazing.

Dogs can sniff out cancer from a piece of cloth which had touched the breast of a woman with a tumour, researchers said Friday, announcing the results of an unusual, but promising, diagnostic trial.

With just six months of training, a pair of German Shepherds became 100-percent accurate in their new role as breast cancer spotters, the team said. The technique is simple, non-invasive and cheap, and may revolutionise cancer detection in countries where mammograms are hard to come by.

“In these countries, there are oncologists, there are surgeons, but in rural areas often there is limited access to diagnostics,” Isabelle Fromantin, who leads project Kdog, told journalists in Paris.

Animal rights activists would oppose using the dogs in this way, because, you know, “slavery.”

Indeed, some, such as Gary Francione, believe dogs should not exist in this world.

Krauthammer’s Take: Democrats Have Created the Expectation of Universal Health Care

by NR Staff

In light of Republican failure to pass the American Health Care Act, Charles Krauthammer dismissed the idea that Chuck Schumer would try to work with Republicans at all, since the Democrats are moving toward a single-payer system as the country increasingly expects universal coverage:

What Schumer said is so telling. Everything he offers is not a compromise halfway between Obamacare and a market-based system. Everything he offered is increase in government control of healthcare, and increase in subsidies. The Democrats are going in one direction. When Obamacare explodes, or collapses, or ends with a whimper instead of a bang — but it’s going to expire one way or the other — the Democrats are going to head in one direction and one direction only: single payer. They are going to go to the British system or the Canadian system. That’s the logic of Obamacare. It was a Jerry-built system which was going to temporarily create an entitlement but would not work because it was financially impossible. So it’s financially impossible, it collapses, but they have succeeded in creating an expectation of universal care and once you have that, that’s the reason why the Quinnipiac poll had the reform, the Ryan reform, at 17 percent. That’s pathetic. That’s lower than anything ever in Obamacare. What we’re going to get is, in time, Democrats are going to go to single payer, and Republicans are going to try to get a stripping away of government control. But I think its time is slipping away; the zeitgeist in the country has changed.

Amy Hagstrom Miller vs. Judge Neil Gorsuch

by Ramesh Ponnuru

I just watched the testimony of the founder and president of the Whole Woman’s Health Clinic, the Texas abortion clinic that won a Supreme Court case against state regulations, at Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings. Some lowlights:

At about 1:24, she tells an allegedly sad story: “I also remember the woman who called from west Texas where every single clinic had been shut down. She was a single working mother with three children. We helped her to find a clinic, raised money for her abortion, child care, transportation, and lost wages. By the time she made it to a Dallas clinic eight weeks later it was too late for her to have an abortion in the state of Texas. We need judges on the court who support our constitutional rights no matter our zip codes. Neil Gorsuch is not that judge.” The terrible tragedy here is that an abortion did not take place.

At around 2:19, Senator John Kennedy (R., La.) asks her whether she would ever support any nominee who had not declared his support for Roe v. Wade. Her eventual answer: “I believe that Roe v. Wade is precedent and it’s important for the justices to uphold precedent.” Right, she’s just devoted to precedent. I’m sure she’s a big believer in Maher v. Roe.

Kennedy then asks her to substantiate her charge that Gorsuch had let his “personal beliefs” determine his judicial decisions, including his decision in the Hobby Lobby case. She does not seem to grasp the question but eventually settles on the idea that the result in the case was proof enough of Gorsuch’s lack of “objectivity.”

Bonus: She says during that exchange, “I tend to side with the little gal.” I wonder whether that west Texas woman’s child, who must now be a toddler, is a girl.

A Sad Day for GOP Voters

by David French

The instant I learned that House leaders had pulled their health care bill, my mind flashed back to seven long years of campaign promises and fundraising pitches. The GOP fought its way to electoral ascendancy in part through consistent, steadfast, and loud pledges to repeal and replace Obamacare. That was the promise to GOP voters from coast to coast, and it motivated millions of Americans to vote, to give, and to volunteer. This was one of the great causes of the Obama-era conservative movement.

And now, with Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, Speaker Ryan says health care reform efforts are over “for the foreseeable future.” Perhaps it’s the cynic in me, but as the political world moves to battles over taxes, immigration, and trade, it’s easy to imagine the “foreseeable future” quickly becoming the indefinite future. It is possible that seven years of campaigning, organizing, and fundraising just culminated in . . . whatever happened today.

I hope not. I pray not. The consequences of long-term failure could be grave. Even in polarized times, a critical mass of voters have proven that they can and will switch sides in sufficient numbers to punish the party in power. Obamacare never “fixed” American health care — and, as the legions of Bernie fans demonstrated — desires for true single-payer health care have only seemed to grow in the progressive heart. Obamacare may well be one day repealed and replaced. It just might not be the Republicans who make that happen. 

Republicans Surrender on Health Care

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Conservatives shouldn’t be dismayed by the failure of the Republican bill–against which there were excellent arguments. They shouldn’t even be dismayed by the fact that the bill was so flawed. Health care is a huge and complicated issue, different Republicans have different views, congressional Republicans have not had to come up with a governing agenda since the late 1990s, and on and on.

What conservatives should be dismayed by is that Republicans are taking the failure of this bill to be the last word on Republican health policy for, as Speaker Ryan put it, “the foreseeable future.” And it’s not just Ryan and President Trump. Other Republicans seem more eager to blame each other for failure–it’s the Freedom Caucus’s fault! it’s Trump’s! it’s Ryan’s!–than to ask why exactly Republicans are quitting after only a few weeks.

The Democrats spent more than a year passing Obamacare; they spent, arguably, seven decades building support for it. Republicans are making a deliberate choice, right now, to continue being less serious on this issue. It is one within their power to reverse.

The Art of the Fumble

by Kevin D. Williamson

Donald Trump, the great negotiator, failed to talk Republicans into voting for a Republican health-care bill. A few thoughts:

One, Trump’s reputation as a maker of great deals has been oversold. Replacing decades of bad health-care law and bad health-insurance policy with something that is market-oriented — while also addressing the risk aversion of Americans worried by the unpredictable nature of health insurance and health-care costs — is, as it turns out, not very much like negotiating a zoning variance in Atlantic City.

Two, Trump still doesn’t seem to understand this. Reactions to Paul Ryan’s opening gambit on health-care reform were pretty negative. Trump insisted that “we’re going to have tremendous support.” Speaking about congressional Republicans, he said, “I’m already seeing the support not only in this room, I’m seeing it from everybody.” He was wrong about that. Bluster only goes so far when the campaign is over, and Trump doesn’t have what it takes to bully conservative representatives from safe districts in Texas and Oklahoma into voting for legislation that doesn’t meet their standards. He doesn’t seem to have done enough thinking about the basic policy questions to really even understand what those standards are. Congressional Republicans would do well in the future to assume that the president’s only real role in health-care reform is going to be signing the bill in a big, beautiful Rose Garden ceremony.

Three, Republicans — incredibly — haven’t figured out what they want. Sean Hannity, on his radio program this afternoon, faulted Republican health-care reformers from failing to consult “the best and brightest” at the Washington think-tanks and policy shops, i.e. the very “Establishment” that he and Trump and other conservative populists have been raging against for more than a year. The course of action that will provide conservative populists with their cherished moment of closure — “Ding dong, Obamacare is dead!” — is different from the course of action that will create a consumer-oriented and market-driven health-care regime that is popular not only among true believers but also in the rather larger demographic of Americans not working at Cato or AEI. Maybe next time around they should try sorting that out before offering the bill.

Paul Ryan has an impossible job. But it is his job, and it is going to be up to congressional Republicans to provide the real leadership on this issue.

But this is not the first time a bill has failed. And it was not a very good bill. Republicans still have time to do better, if they can figure out what exactly it is they actually want to do.

Feinstein’s Anti-Corporation Rhetoric Doesn’t Square with Her Corporate Campaign Donations

by Austin Yack

During this week’s Supreme Court nomination hearings, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, portrayed Judge Neil Gorsuch as a biased judge who has consistently ruled in favor of corporations. If Gorsuch is not for the “little guy,” Feinstein’s line of questioning went, how could he be an acceptable nominee for the Supreme Court?

Gorsuch vehemently denied having some sort of pro-corporate agenda, explaining that as a judge his “job is to apply and enforce the law,” regardless of who the parties are in a particular case. Solely ruling based on the law and facts in question — and not allowing his personal beliefs to influence his ruling — sometimes results in outcomes that he, too, does not necessarily like. This answer wasn’t sufficient for Feinstein. She continued to question whether he would be a justice for “the big corporations” throughout Gorsuch’s nomination hearing.

Feinstein’s implication was that she, by contrast, is a true champion of the “little guy,” who stands opposed to the interests of large corporations. But a glance at her campaign donations from 2011 to 2016 suggests otherwise, as she has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate employees and lobbyists.

Feinstein’s campaign committee has accepted large campaign donations from employees of and lobbyists representing Edison International, PG&E, Wells Fargo, Time Warner, DISH Network, Intel, Sony, Oracle, Comcast, Chevron, and JPMorgan Chase & Co, to name a few.

Edison International employees, for example, donated almost $100,000 to Feinstein’s campaign committee from 2011 to 2016; its lobbyists donated $18,000. Over at General Dynamics, a global defense and aerospace company, its lobbyists donated a total of $33,750, while its company’s employees donated $28,750.

It is perfectly permissible for Feinstein to accept campaign donations from individuals representing big corporations. But her willingness to accept their largesse doesn’t quite square with her political posturing in questioning Gorsuch: Apparently, even if she doesn’t think corporations should get a fair hearing in the court of law, she’s got no problem with taking their money.

The Bill Is Being Pulled

by Rich Lowry

Per CNN. That makes more sense than going through the charade of a doomed vote.

Latest Poll on Planned Parenthood Defunding Is Misleading

by Michael J. New

Yesterday afternoon, Quinnipiac released a new poll on the House GOP’s health-care-reform bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The poll shows that 61 percent of respondents oppose cutting off federal funds to Planned Parenthood. After respondent were told that this funding “was being used only for non-abortion health issues such as breast cancer screening,” opposition to defunding Planned Parenthood increased to 80 percent. The poll has already received coverage from a number of media outlets including Politico, Fortune, Time and CNBC.com.

Unfortunately, both this Quinnipiac poll and a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last week contain many of the same flaws. Neither poll mentions Planned Parenthood’s numerous legal and ethical troubles — specifically the group’s mishandling of Medicaid funds and its willingness to help minors circumvent parental-involvement laws. Neither poll mentions that money is fungible, meaning that the half a billion federal dollars flowing to Planned Parenthood each year still indirectly subsidize abortion. Finally, and most importantly, both polls misstate what the AHCA and other defunding bills would actually do. Proposed legislation would not merely defund Planned Parenthood; it would also reallocate that funding to over 10,000 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), which offer comprehensive health services to over 24 million people a year, 14 million of whom are women. (This map illustrates how drastically community clinics outnumber Planned Parenthoods, by a ratio of 20 to one.)

Polls can be useful in describing the dimensions of public opinion to policymakers. When dealing with controversial issues, reputable polling firms will often release the results of multiple survey questions to show that responses are sensitive to question wording. However, when it comes to life issues, many polling firms often appear interested only in providing ammunition to abortion-rights groups and their allies in Congress. Gallup frequently asks the “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” question, because up until recently, Americans were more likely to describe themselves as “pro-choice.” Questions about pro-life policies that enjoy broad support, such as parental-involvement laws, are asked much less often. This latest poll from Quinnipiac provides yet another unfortunate example of a polling firm advancing an ideological agenda instead of usefully contributing to an ongoing policy debate.

What Is Good About the Ryancare Bill

by Quin Hillyer

Of course the Ryancare bill before the House is neither as good as conservatives in our deepest (non-reconciliation-restricted) desires would want, and not even as good as it could be. But it does represent a number of major improvements under current law.

Somehow, I think everybody is missing the significance of the Medicaid changes.

For 20 years (!!!) conservatives have wanted to block-grant Medicaid to the states. It’s good for the federal fisc and great for the states. If it were so easy to do, we would have done it before. This bill moves a good way in that direction. It is a major, major accomplishment.

For the same 20 years, although with less urgency, we have wanted to put work and training requirements on every welfare-like federal program. We succeeded only once, with AFDC/TANF. This bill now does it for Medicaid, thanks to Representatives Gary Palmer and Morgan Griffiths.

For 25 years, we have steadily, steadily, steadily pushed to create and then expand health-savings accounts. This bill does it to an extent so much better than before as to be nearly fantastic.

For seven years we have complained about all the Obamacare taxes. Some of us have particularly fought the medical-device tax as one that is particularly cruel to suffering patients and particularly job-killing. This bill repeals almost every single Obamacare tax, including the medical-device tax.

And that’s not even to get into the insufficient, but still helpful, improvements in patient choice, market principles, and the like that this bill now contains. And it doesn’t include a number of further concessions to conservatives that the House leadership made overnight.

Put it this way: If this bill were labeled the “Improve Federal Health-Care Policy Act” rather than considered as the repeal/replacement for Obamacare, there isn’t a conservative alive who wouldn’t look at it, compare it to current policy, and say anything other than “Wow, what a great series of wins for us! Cool. Let’s do this!”

And then, having done it, go back to work at fully repealing Obamacare in subsequent legislative efforts (plural). This is a Madisonian system. Chip away, chip away, chip away. Achieve conservative improvements, bank them, and come back for more.

One last note: This vote is not for final passage. The bill will be altered by the Senate and, if passed by the Senate, returned to the House. I absolutely guarantee that the Senate will not pass a bad bill back to the House.

Why?

Because just three GOP senators can kill a bad bill by refusing to vote for it. And I absolutely do not believe that of the following long list, all but two would vote to send a crummy bill back to the House:

Ted Cruz
Rand Paul
Tom Cotton
Mike Lee
Ben Sasse
Jim Inhofe
James Lankford
Marco Rubio
Tim Scott
Pat Toomey

Whatever all but two of those senators pass will go back to the House — or nothing will move at all. If a bill does get back to the lower chamber, the House Freedom Caucus can judge it then.

Vote is Scheduled for this Afternoon

by Rich Lowry

But there is some doubt whether it will really take place if they are significantly short. It made sense for the White House to insist in a vote yesterday as a way to pressure fence-sitters. It would be pointless to vote anyway now, even if they know they are going to lose.

The Editors: GorSUCH a Busy News Week

by NR Staff

Check out the latest episode of The Editors, in which Rich Lowry, Reihan Salam, Ian Tuttle, and David French discuss the House health care bill, the continuing “wiretapping” saga, and more!

7 Cabins Booked this Week

by Jack Fowler

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WH: Hold the Vote No Matter What

by Rich Lowry

We’re beginning to get some indication of the White House reaction to Ryan: 

Barbara Comstock a “No”

by Rich Lowry

Comstock is smart, tough member from a difficult district in Northern Virginia. If she’s a “no,” it’s a very strong sign that this thing isn’t getting over the finish line.