Secrecy Backfires on McConnell

James Hohmann: “Mitch McConnell miscalculated. The Senate majority leader believed that the blowback for keeping his health-care bill secret would be less than the blowback for negotiating it in public.”

“But the Kentuckian misread the degree to which members of his own conference wanted a seat at the table. With little margin for error, he also had too much confidence in his ability to hammer out a compromise that could win over both hardliners who want full repeal and moderates who want to protect Medicaid expansion…”

“Another consequence of the secretive process is that almost no Republican senators have been out there trying to sell the bill – to the public or to each other. Dozens of GOP lawmakers who privately planned to vote for the motion to proceed today made a public show of saying that they were undecided and still studying the proposal. They avoided local reporters and put out opaque statements that gave themselves plenty of wiggle room, as they waited to see how things shook out. This meant that almost no Republicans put out statements defending the measure on Monday night when the Congressional Budget Office announced that millions of fewer Americans would have insurance if it passes. That ensured one-sided coverage in the press, which in turn made it even harder for members to justify supporting the bill.”

The GOP Health Care Bill Isn’t Dead Yet

Rick Klein: “If this was a make-or-break moment, what the break part looks like can lead to all sorts of directions. It’s easy enough to imagine enough GOP tweaks and goodies to get to 50 Senate votes in a few weeks, with the conservative holdouts getting just enough of what they want to get health care passed. It’s also easy to foresee a restless, angry summer of town halls that makes it unlikely that anyone budges, leaving a tense status quo where presidential tweets stir the pot but not any action. But is it ridiculous to suggest there might be a moment for actual governing? Probably, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“With Democrats’ still backing Obamacare, and Republicans in the still-unfamiliar position of governing, every political leader has a stake in the health care laws, just as all their constituents did already. There are changes – even major ones – that could pass with supermajorities if slogans are just filtered out of the congressional water. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is talking about it as a backup option, though he’s making his declaration – ‘we’ll have to sit down withSchumer’ – sound more like a threat than a roadmap.”

Warren Urges Democrats to Back Single-Payer Plan

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told the Wall Street Journal that Democrats on the ballot in the next two federal elections should back a national single-payer health-care plan.

Said Warren: “President Obama tried to move us forward with health-care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts. Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer.”

New Congressman Still Hasn’t Taken His Oath

“House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wants to know why Rep.-elect Jimmy Gomez  (D-CA) hasn’t been sworn in, saying the seat’s ‘elongated vacancy’ is ‘an abdication’ of his responsibilities,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Twenty one days have passed since Gomez won a special election to replace now-California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who resigned Los Angeles’ 34th Congressional District last January. Gomez, a current Democratic state assemblyman, told The Times after the election he would try to delay his Assembly resignation to vote on extending the state’s cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gas. Negotiations on cap and trade are escalating in Sacramento, and there are rumblings Gov. Jerry Brown would like to be able to count on Gomez’ vote to pass the bill with a two-thirds majority before the Legislature leaves on July 21.”

McConnell Rattles His Ranks

Playbook: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the steadiest and most reliable leaders and vote counters Washington has seen, did the unthinkable and rattled his ranks. The Kentucky Republican had told lawmakers there would be a vote this week on health care, but instead — just as Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to do three months ago — decided to delay voting on the package after it was clear that GOP opposition to the health care package was stronger than expected.”

“McConnell has been impervious to the types of problems Ryan faces on a weekly — and sometimes daily — basis. His decision to delay voting on a bill is a sign he couldn’t, or didn’t want to expend the political capital to get it done before the July 4th break. It’s unclear what he can do to change the calculus among the growing bloc of senators unwilling to vote for the bill.”

Mike Allen: “McConnell’s reputation for the inside game is such that Republicans assume he must have something up his sleeve. One top Republican alumnus put the bill’s chances of coming back at 15%. But then as he continued to muse, he doubled it to 30% just because of the McConnell factor.”

Trump Not Even Sure What Health Bill Does

New York Times: “When asked by reporters clustered on the blacktop outside the West Wing if Mr. Trump had command of the details of the negotiations, Mr. McConnell ignored the question and smiled blandly.”

“A senator who supports the bill left the meeting at the White House with a sense that the president did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan — and seemed especially confused when a moderate Republican complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy, according to an aide who received a detailed readout of the exchange.”

“Mr. Trump said he planned to tackle tax reform later, ignoring the repeal’s tax implications, the staff member added.”

Repealing Obamacare No Longer a GOP Unifier

Washington Post: “Replacing Obamacare has become the party’s albatross, a sprawling objective still in search of a solution. The effort to make good on a seven-year promise has cost the Trump administration precious months of its first year in office, with tax restructuring backed up somewhere in the legislative pipeline, infrastructure idling somewhere no one can see it and budget deadlines looming.”

Politico: “It will be fraught with danger while trying to balance out the demands of senators from Medicaid expansion states and hard-line conservatives looking to gut Obamacare as much as possible. And his decision to delay the bill also carries great political risk because it draws out the Obamacare fight at least a couple more weeks. But he’s decided it’s a risk worth taking.”

“The episode was a stunning twist in the GOP’s long-running saga to roll back Obamacare.”

Republicans Now Say Trump Threatening Senate Majority

“Top GOP officials and senators say White House chaos and impulsiveness are crippling efforts to expand the Republican Senate majority in 2018, unraveling long-laid plans and needlessly jeopardizing incumbents,” Politico reports.

“There’s a widespread sense of exasperation with the president, interviews with nearly two dozen senior Republicans reveal, and deep frustration with an administration they believe doesn’t fully grasp what it will take to preserve the narrow majority or add to it.”

McConnell Said Attacks on Heller Were ‘Beyond Stupid’

New York Times: “The majority leader — already rankled by Mr. Trump’s tweets goading him to change Senate rules to scuttle Democratic filibusters — called the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to complain that the attacks were ‘beyond stupid,’ according to two Republicans with knowledge of the tense exchange.”

“Mr. McConnell, who has been toiling for weeks, mostly in private, to put together a measure that would satisfy hard-liners and moderates, told Mr. Priebus in his call that the assault by the group, America First, not only jeopardized the bill’s prospects but also imperiled Mr. Heller’s already difficult path to re-election.”

Manafort Paid $17 Million by Pro-Russian Party

“Paul Manafort, who was forced out as President Trump’s campaign chairman last summer after five months of infighting and criticism about his business dealings with pro-Russian interests, disclosed Tuesday that his consulting firm had received more than $17 million over two years from a Ukrainian political party with links to the Kremlin,” the New York Times reports.

“The filing serves as a retroactive admission that Mr. Manafort performed work in the United States on behalf of a foreign power — Ukraine’s Party of Regions — without disclosing it at the time, as required by law.”

Republicans Just Aren’t Afraid of Trump

Washington Post: “Trump had hoped for a swift and easy win on health care this week. Instead he got a delay and a return to the negotiating table — the latest reminder of the limits of his power to shape outcomes at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”

“History suggests that presidents who have governed successfully have been both revered and feared. But Republican fixtures in Washington are beginning to conclude that Trump may be neither, despite his mix of bravado, threats and efforts to schmooze with GOP lawmakers.”

“The president is the leader of his party, yet Trump has struggled to get Republican lawmakers moving in lockstep on health care and other major issues, leaving no signature legislation in his first five months in office.”

Sarah Palin Sues the New York Times

Sarah Palin is suing the New York Times for defamation over a recent editorial tying one of her political action committee ads to a 2011 mass shooting that severely wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) and killed six people, the New York Post reports.

The paper said Palin incited th​​e shooting, which left Gifford​s​ with a severe brain injury, through an ad from her PAC that put “Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”

The Times later issued a correction.