Trump Blows Up Victory Lap on Mueller, Hands Democrats New Obamacare Fight

Trump Blows Up Victory Lap on Mueller, Hands Democrats New Obamacare Fight

Has any presidential administration in recent memory had a worse sense of timing than that of Donald Trump?

The president and his defenders had just spent 24 hours claiming the Mueller report had completely exonerated him. Some on the left were feeling let down that the special counsel wrapped up his probe without further charges against members of Trump’s campaign. They were watching conservatives spike the football and grinding their teeth into dust over it.

What a perfect moment for the Trump administration to announce a fresh effort to completely repeal the Affordable Care Act, giving the left a fight to which it can immediately turn its attention instead of moping about Mueller.

The Department of Justice announced Monday night that instead of defending the ACA against a lawsuit currently before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the administration will instead ask the court to throw out the entire thing, thereby tossing millions of people off of their health insurance and wreaking untold havoc.

Such a broad attack on the law should immediately give the left a shot of energy to fight on an issue that the majority of voters care about much more than the Russia investigation. It also gives Democratic presidential candidates something new to attack the president over on the campaign trail, where they have reportedly heard many more questions about their future plans to shore up America’s healthcare system than whether or not they think Trump should be impeached for Russian collusion or anything else.

This new attack on the ACA also happened the night before House Democrats planned to roll out upgrades to the law. The new measures would include more generous subsidies for people purchasing health insurance on private exchanges and new efforts to increase enrollment in Obamacare plans.

This plan has no chance of passing the Senate or getting Trump’s signature. It is purely a messaging bill, and likely would have vanished without a trace under the avalanche of news this week, particularly with the president’s defenders spending all their time claiming vindication over Russia.

Now, however, the Trump administration has given Democrats the perfect foil with which to contrast their healthcare plans with the administration’s. On one side, you have a party trying to make the ACA more generous, and to expand its coverage options. On the other, you have an administration that is trying to end the law completely.

That means an end to the Medicaid expansion. An end to young adults being able to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. An end to insurance companies not being able to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. An end to funding some of the fights Trump claimed to prioritize, such as working to end opioid addiction and fight the spread of HIV and AIDS.

And yet, Trump has the chutzpah to tweet this out early Tuesday afternoon:

Trump seems to be operating under the same thesis he has during past attempts by the GOP to repeal Obamacare: that once it is gone, Democrats will have no choice but to come to the table to negotiate a new law. One that will contain Trump’s priorities, such as, uh, protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Which, as mentioned, is already in the law his administration is trying to repeal.

The administration has just given Democrats an incredible gift to get the base fired up and get the Mueller story off the front page. People tend to be a lot more focused when it is their health care on the line instead of Donald Trump’s ego. What an incredible self-own by the president.

Gary Legum

Gary Legum

Gary Legum has written about politics and culture for Independent Journal Review, Salon, The Daily Beast, Wonkette, AlterNet and McSweeney's, among others. He currently lives in his native state of Virginia.