Report: Bannon wanted to use healthcare vote to make ‘enemies list’
President Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon sought to use the healthcare vote this week to make an “enemies list” of lawmakers who would vote “no” on the GOP initiative, The New York Times reported Saturday.
A Hill GOP aide involved in last-minute negotiations told the Times that Bannon and White House legislative affairs director Marc Short pressured the president to let the House vote on the ObamaCare replacement bill.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), however, strongly advised Trump against letting the bill go to a public vote on Friday, as several dozen Republicans remained opposed to the legislation.
According to the Times, Ryan argued that publicly exposing the GOP lawmakers who opposed the bill could do substantial damage to Republicans, especially those who could face primary challenges.
Ryan also reportedly maintained that the move would alienate some rank-and-file Republicans whose support will be needed in pursuing the GOP’s upcoming legislative agenda, such as raising the debt ceiling, and do nothing to punish the conservative Freedom Caucus that vocally opposed the bill from the start.
Trump was initially unconvinced about pulling the bill from the House, the Times reported, but following a bleak vote count that showed the bill lacking support, the president told Ryan to withdraw the legislation.
The vote was initially scheduled for Thursday, the seven-year anniversary of ObamaCare becoming law, but was pushed to Friday and then ultimately canceled as Republicans failed to muster support for the legislation.
West Wing aides told the newspaper that the White House was privately stunned that the Speaker was unable to master the politics of the GOP conference.
Publicly, Trump and the White House press secretary Sean Spicer expressed confidence in Ryan, stating that the administration is fully behind the Republican House leader.