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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

If Trump Had Some Ham, He Could Make a Ham Sandwich, If He Had Some Bread

Donald Trump and Mike Pence made back to back speeches in Pennsylvania this week touting their determination to repeal and replace Obamacare. It was all smoke and mirrors, as I discussed at New York.

[D]uring a rally with Mike Pence in Pennsylvania, he offered a real head-scratcher: “I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace, and it will be such an honor for me, for you and for everybody in this country because Obamacare has to be replaced,” Trump said. “It’s a catastrophe.”

Sounds dramatic, eh? But a moment’s scrutiny should tell you the “special session” stuff makes no sense at all.

The next Congress will convene on January 3, 2017, 17 days before the next president is inaugurated. If it is inclined to repeal and replace Obamacare, it won’t need any special session for that. Indeed, the most likely scenario for that to happen, if and only if Republicans control both houses of Congress, is in a budget reconciliation bill that cannot be filibustered in the Senate and benefits from streamlined procedures generally. It won’t happen overnight, but it certainly can be accommodated by the normal congressional schedule.

Perhaps Trump is talking about not waiting until next January, so urgent is the task of repealing and replacing Obamacare. But there’s no need for a special session after the election; Congress is already scheduled to reconvene in November for a continuation of the current session in order to deal with the appropriations can that has been kicked down the road, and perhaps some other items.

But even if a special session was needed, Trump would have no power to call one for the obvious reason that he would not be president until January 20, 2017. Is he talking about asking Obama to call a “special session” (which isn’t needed) to repeal the 44th president’s signature achievement and enact a yet-to-be-specified GOP replacement plan? (In case you hadn’t guessed it, Trump and Pence did not offer a specific replacement plan in their Pennsylvania speeches today.) That’s probably not going to work.

I’ve since heard some commentators suggest Trump was just trying to signify to conservative doubters that he would kill Obamacare no matter what. Once you get to a fact-free Oz, of course, anything’s possible. But facts have a way of spoiling the best imaginary plans.

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