On Monday, in a ghoulish speech to the Boy Scouts Jamboree, Trump threatened to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price if Republican senators failed to repeal Obamacare. He then turned his attention to Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who had yet to decide how she was going to vote on the motion to proceed:
[Price] better get Senator Capito to vote for it. You got to get the other senators to vote for it. It’s time. After seven years of saying repeal and replace Obamacare, we have a chance to now do it. They better do it. Hopefully they’ll do it.”
It was a surreal moment in a surreal speech; a crowd of 40,000 Boy Scouts is not exactly the audience one would expect for this kind of arm-twisting. But on Tuesday, when it came time to cast her vote, Capito voted to proceed.
This is really Trump’s only move, whether dealing with a member of his own party or a foreign adversary, so it’s no surprise that he’s doubling down in advance of a pivotal health care vote that’s expected to go down late Thursday evening or early Friday morning.
This is a message not just for Murkowski, who, along with Maine Senator Susan Collins, is expected to vote no on whatever bill the Senate ultimately produces. It is also for other Republicans: Vote against this destructive health care bill and President Trump will hound you on Twitter forever.
Trump has been widely and justly criticized for his complete lack of engagement with Congress and his total disinterest in the details of health care policy, but he’s been successful so far at bullying and cajoling Congress forward. He doesn’t have the relationships, the policy is wildly unpopular, and so it’s a partisan pitch all the way down. It worked on Capito on Tuesday, so why wouldn’t it work on other waverers on Thursday?