Paul Ryan
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

A week ago when I asked what would happen if the GOP failed to repeal Obamacare, I thought I was going out on a limb. While the Republicans were facing an uphill climb at the time, no one was actually contemplating failure. But today, that is obviously a very real possibility.

A huge tell came this morning when Speaker Ryan seemed intent on making sure that he isn’t alone when/if that ship sinks.

Matt Fuller is even suggesting that Republicans might be willing to re-define success.

Instead of actually overhauling the Affordable Care Act, Republicans may now just be trying to pass a bill in the House ― with the recognition that the Senate will never agree to a House-passed plan and that rowdy House conservatives may never accept a Senate bill…

If Trump and some Republicans now think their best course of action is to do nothing and continue blaming problems with the health care system on Democrats, then perhaps the best cover they can offer their members is to move a GOP bill out of the House, watch it die in the Senate, and then spend the next two years blaming Senate Democrats in states that Trump won.

That lines up perfectly with what we’ve been hearing from Trump for a while now.

[Trump] keeps emphasizing that Republicans are “putting themselves in a very bad position” by pushing a controversial repeal bill, when they could easily let Obamacare collapse and let Democrats take the blame.

Fuller’s reporting could also explain something Politico noted earlier this week.

White House officials said they increasingly felt pressured because of the need to cross their immediate political hurdle — the House of Representatives. They want to make sure the bill gets through the House floor, aware that a political setback there could doom the measure before it ever gets a chance to build any momentum. Then, they will turn to negotiations with senators, who likely won’t like some of the House changes, but they can cross that bridge “when we get to it,” one person said.

Let’s be clear. Speaker Ryan wants to pass Obamacare repeal because he needs the tax cuts. But he also needs to maintain his political power. Simply getting repeal through the House could be good enough to accomplish the latter, but not the former. On the other hand, Josh Marshall absolutely nailed what Trump wants.

Trump’s ideological commitment to this bill? Basically zero. Trump’s commitment to being loved and not looking stupid? Incalculable. Trump seems at least temporarily imprinted with the access/freedom Ryan mantra. But there’s every reason to think that is just skin deep. Trump may not care in any deep sense about millions of people losing their insurance coverage. But he did say his genius and deal making power would make things awesome for everyone. He wants everyone happy and loving him. This bill is not good for that agenda.

We know from having observed Trump that he will do everything possible to avoid challenges to his “genius and deal making power.” His primary concern is to avoid anything that is a threat to his fabricated view of himself. Failure to actually pass Obamacare repeal would be met with the same pattern associated with his personality disorder we have witnessed over and over again – lying recklessly and finding a victim to blame. This plan would set up the prospect of blaming Senate Democrats rather than Speaker Ryan.

I’m not ready to buy that this is some kind of grand scheme that Republicans have cooked up to get out of a jam. I think there is too much chaos within the ranks to jump to that conclusion. But I do think this might be how the whole effort to repeal Obamacare actually plays out.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.