Trump is actually making an accurate political judgment here:
President Trump, the author of “The Art of the Deal,” has been projecting his usual bravado in public this week about the prospects of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Privately he is grappling with rare bouts of self-doubt.
Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans.
He said ruefully this week that he should have done tax reform first when it became clear that the quick-hit health care victory he had hoped for was not going to materialize on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the act’s passage, when the legislation was scheduled for a vote.
From Trump’s standpoint — that is, someone with little interest in public policy but very intense interest in his popularity — going along with Ryan’s preferred sequencing was obviously dumb. The correct approach would be to focus on
white what unites the Republican conference — that is, upper-class tax cuts. So pass a round of upper-class tax cuts, and another round of tax cuts and breaks you can sell as an “infrastructure bill,” and then let Ryan and McConnell try to pass whatever wingnutty stuff they can. Ordinarily, agenda-setting is an area where the president has a lot of authority, but then most presidents have some idea what they’re doing and aren’t unfit for office on every level.
From Ryan’s perspective — that is, someone who really wants to slash federal spending on health care as much as possible and get tax cuts that are not only as large as possible but “permanent” — the sequencing made superficial sense. Early was the best shot at ACA repeal, and a lower tax revenue baseline would theoretically make it more a lot easier to pass a tax cut that doesn’t sunset. Having said that, even accepting his premises it was a dubious idea. Even if TrumpCare doesn’t pass he probably still won’t be able to pass a tax cut that doesn’t sunset because of the lack of Republican support for a large border-adjustment tax. And, in addition, there’s no such thing as a “permanent” tax cut, unless you think the Democratic Party will never take power in a decent economy again.
From Ryan’s own premises, if TrumpCare passes he will be “vindicated,” although the horrible effects the law would have on the country will likely make Trump a one-termer and could cost Ryan his majority as early as 2018. If it fails, the strategy was an unmitigated disaster for the party.