So what did I miss yesterday? In the Senate, I guess Obamacare “clean repeal” went down in flames, where it joins “repeal-and-replace.” So what’s left? Republicans can try to amend BCRA enough to win more votes, but considering how many votes they need to pass it, that seems like a lost cause. So now it’s on to “skinny repeal,” aka “let’s punt this off to another committee and see what they come up with.” But any committee that includes House members is only going to push to make the Senate bill even worse, and what are the odds that this will earn more Senate votes?
Never say never, but it looks like Obamacare repeal is dead. This means that President Trump will almost certainly begin Operation Sabotage, designed to wreck Obamacare while trying to blame it all on Democrats. Politically this seems unlikely to work, but it will certainly make life worse for millions of poor and working-class Americans. But that’s Donald for you. He has to take revenge on someone, and if he can’t take it out on Democrats, he’ll take it out on the ordinary people that Democrats care about.
And speaking of taking revenge, I see that Trump decided to ban transgender people from the military. This seems to have come out of nowhere. The military wasn’t pushing for it, and was taken by surprise when they read Trump’s tweets announcing the new policy.¹ I don’t think that social conservatives had this on their radar either. So whose idea was it? And what’s the point? Is it to build a bit of credibility with social conservatives, who are starting to get pretty peeved with Trump’s treatment of right-wing darling Jeff Sessions? Is it to stick a finger in the eye of those bad Democrats who are holding up Trumpcare? Is it some Bannon-esque move with a motivation too obscure for us to figure out?
I don’t know. All I know is that it looks like Trump is close to losing a big battle, and his instinct when that happens is to lash out. We should all assume that he’s going to do his best over the next few weeks to piss off liberals one way or another. Sadly, since he doesn’t have much leverage over actual members of Congress, that may well mean taking out his anger on vulnerable populations that liberals care about.
¹Yes, he informed the Pentagon of this new policy via Twitter.
UPDATE: I see that the reason for Trump’s transgender policy is more prosaic than I thought:
House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico. But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.
They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether.
So the transgender ban (a) helps him with defense hawks, (b) helps get his priorities funded, and (c) reverses a policy Obama put in place. Simple.