Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is one of the American Health Care Act's fiercest Republican critics, calling the GOP's new health care plan "ObamaCare lite" and warning that "it will not pass. Conservatives aren't going to take it." The bill is "dead on arrival," he added. President Trump seems pretty sure Paul will fall in line.
The bill being called, inevitably, TrumpCare is so unpopular that pundits are seriously wondering if Republicans actually want it to fail. Influential conservative groups like FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, and the House Freedom Caucus have denounced the bill, conservative health care wonks are trashing it, and even Breitbart News hates it. The American Hospital Association and AARP have come out against it. And Democrats, unsurprisingly, are decrying it as a massive $600 billion tax cut for the rich disguised as a plan to deprive 20 million Americans of their health care.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is putting on a brave face. "We'll have 218 when this thing comes to the floor," he said on Tuesday. "I can guarantee you that." And to the relief of GOP leaders, Trump is doing more than just tweeting at Paul. He gave his unequivocal endorsement of the plan in public, and in private he warned House GOP whips of a "bloodbath" in 2018 if Republican members of Congress don't fall in line, one House member tells CNN.
Trump pledged his support to whip recalcitrant Republicans, telling the GOP leaders that "he will be very active in the effort to pass this bill," Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) tells Politico. "He used the phrase several times, 'No more excuses; it's time to get it passed.'"
Trump also sent an olive branch to the Freedom Caucus, telling them through White House budget director Mick Mulvaney that he's open to negotiation and wants them to amend the bill to their liking. Trump's biggest carrot could be face time, though, Republicans told him, reminding him that he is very popular among many of the bill's opponents. "Some of these [Freedom Caucus] guys are used to punching leadership in the nose and being praised for it back home," one Republican whip told Politico. "Are you going to punch Trump in the nose? I don't think so."