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Evan Vucci / AP

When the balky hardliners of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, this was Steve Bannon's opening line, according to people in the conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building:

Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.
  • Bannon's point was: This is the Republican platform. You're the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.
  • One of the members replied: "You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn't listen to him, either."
  • Started on the wrong foot: Repeal-and-replace was always snakebit. Ryan had begun the process before Trump's inauguration. "He boxed us in," said one person close to the fight. "We didn't have any choice."
  • Was always wobbly: Trump relied too long on assurances from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and HHS Secretary Tom Price that they had the process in hand. And "Ryan was telling him it was fine, and they'd bring it together at the end." Instead, the bottom fell out.
  • What's next: White House officials plan to plunge ahead with ambitious tax reform, but they know it'll be harder now. As one of the lessons learned, look for the White House to drive the truck on tax reform – to set the policy and work the members from the beginning, undercutting Ryan. So the border adjustment tax, a favorite of Ryan but viewed skeptically at best by the White House, is less likely to be part of Trump's tax reform bid.
  • What happens today: Aides say Trump was calm yesterday. But as the vicious post-mortems piled up, friends — knowing he would hate-read them — feared for today's Twitter feed.

Perspective: It's hard to overstate the magnitude of the Day 64 defeat. President Trump, who made repeal-and-replace a central theme of his campaign, and House Republicans, who made it the central theme of every campaign since 2010, lost in a publicly humiliating way despite controlling every branch of government and enjoying margins in the House rarely seen in the past century.

This virtually guarantees no substantive legislative achievements in the first 100 days. And it creates rifts and suspicions and second-guessing that make governing much harder.

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Go deeper

Updated 13 mins ago - World

Putin calls Biden summit "constructive," but blames U.S. for tensions

Putin at the summit with Biden. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that his summit with President Biden was "constructive," and that the countries had agreed their ambassadors would imminently return to their posts in Moscow and Washington.

What he's saying: "Many of our joint positions are divergent but nevertheless I think both sides manifested a determination to try and understand each other and try and converge our positions," Putin told reporters at a press conference immediately following the meetings, according to a translator.

Updated 43 mins ago - World

Live updates: Putin holds press conference after Biden summit concludes

President Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva for less than four hours of talks on Wednesday, a highly anticipated summit that comes as both sides say U.S.-Russia relations have sunk to a new post-Cold War low.

The latest: The summit concluded at about 11:15 a.m. ET, according to the White House. At a press conference, Putin called the talks "very constructive' and announced that the U.S. and Russia's respective ambassadors would return to their posts (Highlights). Biden is expected to deliver his own press conference at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Southwest heat wave intensifies, breaks records and worsens drought

A temperature "misery index" shows peak levels across the Southwest (orange and yellow), and the upper air flow shows how the jet stream is being pushed north, away from the heat dome parked over the Four Corners region. (Earth.nullschool.net)

A punishing and long-enduring heat wave is intensifying in parts of the West and Southwest, with heat warnings and advisories in effect across seven states Wednesday. The heat will not relent until late in the weekend.

Threat level: In the coming days, 40 million are likely to see temperatures reach or exceed 100 degrees.