Trump, use the bully pulpit for a 'Hail Mary' pass on healthcare reform
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Thursday's narrow passage of legislation in the House of Representatives to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was a major short-term political victory for President Trump. This dramatic action came only six weeks after House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan says he disagrees with Romney's impeachment vote Trump doubles down on Neil Cavuto attacks: 'Will he get the same treatment as' Shep Smith? Trump lashes out at Fox News coverage: 'I won every one of my debates' MORE canceled a March vote on a previous incarnation of the bill that lacked requisite support. The celebratory atmosphere in the Rose Garden was undoubtedly a tad premature, as a larger battle on healthcare with less margin for error remains.

Attention and focus now shifts to the sharply divided Senate, where Democrats are similarly unified in opposition to the American Health Care Act. Republicans enjoy just a two-seat advantage, yet Senators such as Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have already publicly expressed numerous concerns with the House legislation.

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Several of these Senators reside in one of the 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Some Republican governors are considering opting out of pre-existing condition policies if the opportunity arises. A final score from the Congressional Budget Office will also soon be available and be of great interest to wavering lawmakers.

 

A final victory for President Trump that could prove integral to the rest of his agenda of tax reform and infrastructure spending is no slam dunk and will certainly require the additional expenditure of political capital. Now that Ryan has done his job by nosing the replacement bill past the finish line in the House, he should once again invite President Trump to address a joint session of Congress on the exclusive subject of healthcare reform.

The use of the bully pulpit on the biggest stage is both appropriate and supported by historical precedent.

President Reagan delivered his second address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, 1981. President Carter's second address took place on April 20, 1977 and President Kennedy's in May of 1961. Presidents Clinton and Obama both spoke before a joint session of Congress regarding the topic of health care during their first years in office. This is the ideal forum for President Trump to influence public opinion by focusing on the sustainability of the Affordable Care Act, which is his most persuasive argument and potential basis for a bipartisan compromise.

CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield recently requested at least a 50 percent rate increase for health care premiums in Maryland. The state of Iowa is down to one health care insurer selling individual plans, which will soon be pulling out of 94 of the 99 counties in the state. Aetna just announced it will stop offering individual insurance plans in Virginia, so 27 counties in the state will be left with only one insurance company.

As well as providing a critique of the shortcoming of the status quo, President Trump should also use this opportunity to clarify his personal preferences regarding several of the legislation's most controversial provisions. These includes tax credits for low-income Americans, the precise date when the Medicaid expansion should be phased out, and the potential for states to opt out of providing essential healthcare services.

A second prime-time speech would also be good politics for President Trump, whose first address to a joint session of Congress was very well-received and the pinnacle of his young presidency.

On Feb. 28 he delivered an hour-long speech that was watched by nearly 50 million Americans on television. After a terse and gloomy inaugural address that was greeted with mixed reactions, President Trump rose to the occasion before Congress and it didn't take long for this effort to be deemed a massive success. Polls from CNN/ORC and CBS News conducted shortly after the speech found a large majority of viewers had a very positive reaction while appreciating its "presidential" and "unifying" tone. Moderates and independents were particularly taken with the address.

In addition to near universal acclaim from media pundits and analysts, the speech produced other tertiary benefits. The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke the 21,000 barrier the next day. Polls from Gallup and Rasmussen Reports experienced a noticeable uptick following the address. Combined with the recent announcement of robust job growth in April, this one-two punch could help get President Trump's presidency back on track after a tumultuous first hundred days.

Heightened approval ratings and increased political capital would only aid the passage of President Trump's legislative agenda. Closed-door meetings, phone calls, rallies, and threats to campaign in the districts of political opponents are not the ideal ways for President Trump to optimally communicate his health care message and vision for the country.

The accompanying pomp and circumstance of another address to a joint session of Congress will allow the president to take his detailed and unfiltered plan directly to the American people in the most favorable light. An encore performance inside a comfortable venue is both good policy and politics for Trump, who should already be banging down Paul Ryan's door for this much-needed invitation.

Aaron Kall is the Director of Debate at the University of Michigan and editor/co-author of "Mr. Speaker, The President of the United States: Addresses to a Joint Session of Congress."


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.