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What's Next For Health Care On The Hill?


When it became clear that the House was not going to be able to pass its health care bill, President Trump was quick to move on, readying for the next battle, tax reform. That did not, however, stop the president's top advisers from deflecting blame. Here's Mick Mulvaney. He's the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. He was on NBC's "Meet The Press" yesterday.


MICK MULVANEY: We haven't been able to change Washington in the first 65 days. And I think if there's anything that's disappointing and sort of an educational process to the Trump administration was that this place was a lot more rotten than we thought that it was.

GREENE: And President Trump did not hold back on blaming people, Democrats and then conservatives in his own party. There are increasing signs, though, that the Trump might focus now on reaching out to Democrats, even if that means bypassing the so-called Freedom Caucus of hard-line Republicans. This is Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus on "Fox News Sunday."


REINCE PRIEBUS: It's time for both parties to come together and get to real reforms in this country, whether it be taxes, whether it be health care, whether it be immigration, whether it be infrastructure. This president is ready to lead and sort of, you know, over with the games in the legislature.

GREENE: Let's talk about all this with Jim Hobart. He is a Republican analyst and pollster who has been on our program many times before.

Jim, good morning.

JIM HOBART: Good morning.

GREENE: So how big was the political cost for Donald Trump in this health care bill, this failure?

HOBART: I think for Donald Trump and for the Republican Party in general, it's certainly not good politically. The reality is that Republicans were elected to get things done. No. 1 on that list was repealing and replacing Obamacare. They gave it a shot, and it didn't work. So from a political standpoint, definitely not a good thing.

GREENE: Let's talk - I mean, the president yesterday blaming the Freedom Caucus pretty clearly for the failure here - and I just wonder about that strategy. I mean, couldn't that alienate these conservatives? Will it make it hard to get them back for things like tax reform and other stuff on the agenda?

HOBART: I think Donald Trump is starting to feel what, first, John Boehner did and Paul Ryan has during his tenure as speaker, is that dealing with the Freedom Caucus is very frustrating. This is a group that would vote no on declaring that the sky is blue. And that is the precedent they have set. And yeah, it's an open question as to what the best way to deal with them is. He certainly did his best to come their way on the health care bill. It still didn't work. And I think he certainly voiced his frustration over the weekend.

GREENE: Well, I don't have to tell you how polarizing this election was. I just wonder, what potential is there for Donald Trump if he chooses to go after moderate Democrats as we go on now? I mean, is it possible for him to get some on his side?

HOBART: I think there's two challenges. The first one is there just aren't very many moderate Democrats left. Both in the Republican Party - there aren't many moderate Republicans. And the Democrats - it's the same way. And Democrats just don't have that much incentive - at least right now - to come in Donald Trump's direction. So I think it's certainly worth trying to reach out. It's going to be difficult to have many Democrats come aboard with Donald Trump because it would harm them politically. There's such distaste for Donald Trump among the Democratic base that any Democrat voting with him is going to face problems of their own.

GREENE: OK so taking all that together - he's going to have trouble getting these conservatives because you say that they'll vote no on even the question of - is the sky blue? - although that's something they would obviously say is not the case. But you have - you're saying the Democrats - there just aren't moderates there for Donald Trump to work with. Where does that leave this president and his agenda?

HOBART: It's going to be difficult. Look - governing is hard. And I think that Republicans are seeing that after - this is the first time they've controlled all three branches of government since before the 2006 elections. And several congressmen said over the weekend that, look, we've gotten so used to voting no on everything and that being a successful strategy. Now we're going to have to take some time to learn how to govern, and it's going to take some time. And it will be - it's going to be a challenge. And whether it be further reaching out to the Freedom Caucus or seeing if he can get some Democrats on board, it will be interesting to see the tack that Donald Trump and other Republican leaders take.

GREENE: Let me finish by asking you about these investigations into Russia and possible alleged ties with the Trump campaign. The House Intelligence Committee - the chairman, Devin Nunes, canceling an open hearing on Tuesday, saying that it would be better to have closed-door hearings to be able to hear more from officials, Democrats saying that they're just trying to hide this from the public. I mean, has this become so polarized that this investigation has just lost credibility?

HOBART: It looks a lot to me and reminds me of Republicans' investigation into Benghazi a couple of years back in that it is something that there has been so much focus on and so much conflicting information on both sides that it's something that voters may be beginning to tune out, with the exception of the bases of both parties. So I'm not sure how much effect it has politically, although certainly transparency should be the focus.

GREENE: OK. Jim Hobart, Republican pollster with Public Opinion Strategies in Alexandria, Va.

Jim, thanks.

HOBART: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.