Thursday, March 23, 2017 11:18 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis
1. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show on Capitol Hill
Your Moose and Squirrel talking points before your power lunch today. We may be witnessing the Rocky and Bullwinkle presidency. There’s President Bullwinkle, who tells us amazing things we didn’t know, like the Republican Party is the “party of Lincoln.” Or that nobody knew that health care reform could be “so complicated.” And there’s Vice President Rocky,
the sweet flying squirrel, beloved by all on Capitol Hill. He never
passed a bill of his own during 12 years in Congress, and this past week
he’s been the Capitol Hill point man seeking passage of what is
universally seen as a flawed, flawed RyanCare package. Even when
President Bullwinkle asks us to watch him pull a rabbit out of his hat, often times a scary creature turns up. In today’s Washington, the reality presidency of Donald Trump and Mike Pence face a daunting hurdle. And at this writing, they don’t have the votes.
The reality is palpable. NBC was reporting 29 “no” votes this morning, though Kristen Welker was reporting President Trump is “confident” and “optimistic.” In Politico’s coverage this morning, we’re getting quotes like, "If this goes down, we're all screwed," said
one Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity. Or this after a
Freedom Caucus event: “Everybody’s frustrated. Some moved; some stayed
the same.” Ditto for the more centrist Tuesday Group, which counts U.S.
Rep. Susan Brooks as a member. As Bullwinkle and Rocky
move to appease the right, the moderates worry about exposure and
inevitable changes in the Senate. Axios reports this morning: The bill could still be brought down by moderates,
worried that they could lose their seats over the real-life effects of a
bill that has no chance of passing the Senate. The Koch organization
last night announced a "seven-figure fund" to sink the bill. (Axios' Caitlin Owens: "Trumpcare gives more money to the rich, less to the poor.") And David Nather writes in Axios on the Trump/Pence tweaks: Will it be enough? Or will they have to pull the bill? We're still going with "they'll squeeze it out at the last minute"
– but even the most seasoned House observers aren't sure. With the Koch
brothers against it on one side, and Republican moderates pulling away
on the other, we've got actual suspense, not fake suspense.
2. Then there’s Boris and Natasha Badenov
The lurking silhouettes in the shadows of the Bullwinkle administration are the devious Boris and Natasha Badenov. The reality TV President Trump can’t seem to shake them.
Just as the White House tries to sell RyanCare with threats and
intimidation (“if this doesn’t pass, you’ll lose your seats in 2018”)
the 2005 Paul Manafort memo pops up by
the Associated Press. The former Trump campaign manager (and not a
fringe character) offered to tidy up the thug Russian President Putin’s
western exposure. Then CNN reported last night this explosive nugget:
FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump
communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign.