Evan Vucci / AP
Republican leaders are coming to the bleak conclusion they will end summer and begin the fall with no major policy accomplishments. Privately, they realize it's political malpractice to blow at least the first nine months of all-Republican rule, but also realize there's little they can do to avoid the dismal outcome.
In fact, they see the next four months as MORE troublesome than the first four. They're facing terrible budget choices and headlines, the painful effort to re-work the health care Rubik's Cube in the House (presuming it makes it out of the Senate), a series of special-election scares (or losses) — all with scandal-mania as the backdrop.
One of the key insights I picked up at last week's SALT hedge-fund conference in Vegas (tough duty) was that nobody thought health care reform would happen, and most were very skeptical that Trump and Republicans could get their acts together enough to pass tax reform this year.
Asked about both onstage, Jeb Bush said a flat "no" to health care and a very unconvincing "maybe" to tax reform. The masters of the universe had more colorful words in private — they're deeply pessimistic about health care.
A source close to the Republican congressional leadership emails a vivid snapshot of the party's feng shui:
We are walking into an autumn of discontent because they won't have any legislative accomplishment when they come back from the August recess. ... Their biggest problem is that the reconciliation instructions will expire at the end of September. ...
They're going to go home and get the [stuff] kicked out of them because people think it actually was accomplished — and, by the way, people are likely going to be getting their premium increases that are going to occur regardless of whether they pass this bill or not. ...
And now the president's threatening that he's not going to approve the money for the insurance subsidies — it is going to be a catastrophic political problem ...
They are in this terrible box on healthcare and they're about to get blamed for it because they did what I've been calling that Bon Jovi rally at the White House — because they were halfway there.
A top Republican points out that the original version of this story - which referenced "zero" legislative accomplishments - leaves out some notable Trump wins. Namely, confirming Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and unwinding dozens of Obama regulations.