Mitch McConnell choked back tears after his last ACA repeal failed. It’s hard to know whether he mourned the defeat of his effort to delete Obama’s legacy or if he foresaw the coming divorce between his GOP and the White House.
Trump shrugged away the loss and replaced it with a crass announcement. After unleashing Scaramucci the Vulgar on the White House chief of staff with a debasing show of public humiliation, Trump tossed the remains of Reince Priebus to the street and replaced him with a general, who in turn dumped the Mooch.
The swift change of guard all but completes the expulsion of Republican Party agents from the current administration. HHS Secretary Tom Price, formerly a legislator from Georgia and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former GOP senator, are the only holdouts.
Thus far, Sessions has spurned the barrage of Trump invective, aided by party allies like Lindsey Graham, who promised “holy hell” if Trump dare to fire Sessions.
Graham’s warning is coupled with others who predict dire consequences should Trump fire the AG and tick off the conservative wing of the party.
Meanwhile, Price may come under the president’s crosshairs for his flaccid defense of Trump and his threats to let the ACA “implode.” When pressed a day ago, Price refused to say his agency would remove cost-sharing payments to insurance companies. He also would not directly say if he’d get rid of the individual mandate or subsidies. He talked fast and invoked the President and his “passions” repeatedly. But when the interview concluded, he had not made a commitment to abide by any of Trump’s pledges to destroy the ACA.
If Price and Sessions get the boot, then the divorce will be final. Call it incompatibility. Cite the abusive nature of the union, the failure to compromise. One thing’s for sure – the political fallout from such a separation will be incalculable. Tearing the GOP label from his coattails will leave Trump without a legislative alliance. Upcoming legislation will no longer be fashioned to meet the president’s agenda. And that’s just the beginning of the shock wave.
Here’s the rub: the guy in the White House doesn’t seem to care. In fact, Trump is surrounding himself with non-governmental sycophants, questionable characters, media hucksters and family – people whose allegiances are not to party or principle but to one person: Donald Trump.
As this divorce is in process, a couple of things need to be kept in mind.
- Cutting the Republican cord could encourage bipartisan work among legislators, now released from the obligation to honor “their” president’s wishes. A bipartisan effort to mend the ACA is already in the works. The next budget might actually be good for America, and not a slush fund for that “beautiful wall.”
- Republican resistance to investigations of the president would likely disappear. There may be a perfunctory shout-out now and then. But when the chief executive abandons his party, then the GOP would be emboldened to return the favor. And this leads to my next point.
- Reince Priebus is Paul Ryan’s buddy. As I noted back in March, as House Speaker, Ryan wields some scary power over a chief executive. He appoints the chair of the Judiciary committee from which emanate articles of impeachment. Republicans may realize that removing Trump is the only way to save their party.
All in all, a divorce would be a very bad move for Trump. But he doesn’t have the politically savvy, GOP-faithful advisors to tell him this – and he wouldn’t listen anyway.