May 2, 2017

Salesman Trump picks up the phone, seeking reassurance


Andrew Harnik / AP

During a recent phone conversation about the evolving health-reform bill, President Trump asked a simplistic but apparently sincere question: "Is what we are going to do going to take care of people?"

What I told people is: We'll take care of people.

No deep dive on the detail. But Trump, the salesman, wanted reassurance selling a big, complicated product he doesn't fully understand.

The House Republican on the other end of the line told the president that the bill would, indeed, look after people so long as it kept in certain provisions, like allowing states with expanded Medicaid coverage to keep adding people until at least the end of 2019. Trump was very receptive to that advice, the lawmaker tells Axios' Super Swan.

Why it matters: The conversation captures the insane level of interest in not screwing up a second rushed attempt to get a health-care win for Trump.

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus rings constantly and late into the night. Vice President Pence calls from Air Force Two. The president phones when you're hanging with family on the weekend, and you have to explain when you return that it was the president calling.

While Steve Bannon is famous for his gruff, 90-second phone calls, Trump's calls can run five minutes or longer, which lawmakers say is actually quite a long time compared to the distracted approach they had expected.

Get smart fast: "The health care bill's path forward in the Senate," by Axios' Caitlin Owens: Senate Republicans are already thinking about what it will take to get the bill through the upper chamber if it, indeed, arrives from the House. The changes aren't as vast as you might think.

  • The wild card: Rand Paul. But Republicans can afford to lose two votes, so even if Paul and Susan Collins oppose the bill, it still passes.
  • The bottom line: The bill is far from dead on arrival.
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