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Conservative Media Divided Between Trump And GOP Lawmakers


The Republican Party has a majority in both houses of Congress and controls the presidency. So why might it be difficult for them to pass the new health care bill that they've proposed to replace the Affordable Care Act? Criticism intensified this week when the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 24 million fewer Americans would be covered by 2026 under the proposed plan. We're joined now in our studios by Michael Graham whose podcast editor for The Weekly Standard.

Michael, thanks for being with us.

MICHAEL GRAHAM: Happy to be here. And thank you for getting the reporting right. Twenty-four million fewer insured as opposed to 24 million losing their coverage, which is a very different narrative. People will choose not to be insured because they won't be forced to via the mandate. So thank you very much.

SIMON: We're here to get the reporting right, Michael.

GRAHAM: You do. And by the way, I just got a text from Paul Ryan who listened to that last report. He's wondering if he could stop negotiating with the Freedom Caucus...

SIMON: Yeah?

GRAHAM: ...And start negotiating North Korea if they could just work that out.

SIMON: (Laughter).

GRAHAM: If he could get Kim Jong Un...

SIMON: You mean somebody rational?

GRAHAM: Yeah, someone he could work with.

SIMON: Yeah.

GRAHAM: That would be very good.

SIMON: Why aren't all Republican votes for this bill locked up? There are conservatives who don't like it. They're centrists that don't like it.

GRAHAM: Well, there's a lot to not like. It's a big, messy problem. But the conversation on, you know, The Weekly Standard, the Washington Examiner, the groups that I work with...

SIMON: Yeah.

GRAHAM: ...You know, we are at the junction of these confluences. For years, you had a pretty straightforward, conservative view on health care that the free market fixes it so you put in some kind of floor so that, you know, worst-case scenario, you still got a net to catch you. But then you let people shop. And just like your iPhone, prices go down; quality goes up. It's - that's the formula. But that formula is hard to find in this bill because you have this other group of people who actually won the White House. And they're not conservatives. They're Trump - whatever, you know, Republicans, nationalists, whatever, and they have a different view.

And two things have arisen. One is Trump is promising the kind of we're-going-to-take-care-of-you message that President Obama used to sell Obamacare without really talking about costs or how it works economically. And then there's just this pent-up desire to get the Republican establishment and get Paul Ryan. If you look at the Breitbart coverage, for every one time they say something about the Obamacare repeal - you know, what it does, say, with the tax credits - there are 10 sentences about - and by the way, don't you hate that Paul Ryan guy? And so if you're more interested in having that internecine fight, it's hard to talk about and focus on policy.

SIMON: Do conservatives, the conservatives to whom you give a voice, believe that every American has a right to health care?

GRAHAM: No, no. They believe that your job as a human being is to feed, clothe, house and take care of yourself and that there's something fundamentally - it infantilizes a population to say them - don't worry. Your job is just to be born, and then someone else will take care of you.

What they do believe is that the free market creates a dynamic where everybody's care is - virtually everybody's care is affordable and far better. And then you take care of those people who need help because you choose to as opposed to because they're entitled to it. The net outcome is better care.

SIMON: Are they willing to let people die over that principle?

GRAHAM: Oh, no. No, you don't - but to who - and that's such an interesting - I love that you got right to the college dorm part of the argument, you know - are you going to let people die? No one's going to let people die. You know, there's talk about - oh, my gosh, the Trump budget cuts Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels gets 3 percent of its funding, approximately, from government sources. Ninety-seven percent is people want to take care of their neighbors.


GRAHAM: People are not going to let their neighbors die.

SIMON: I saw that statistic in National Review.

GRAHAM: Oh, that's another fine magazine.

SIMON: And give me some credit for reading National Review.

GRAHAM: I personally - I think...

SIMON: Oh, wait. But they're at odds with Weekly Standard, aren't they?

GRAHAM: No, we're fine.

SIMON: But all of that...

GRAHAM: If you're in trouble with management at NPR for reading National Review...

SIMON: No, no, no. They bring it in here.

GRAHAM: (Laughter).

SIMON: But - so in any event, do you really want to put yourself on the side of people that cut even 3 percent from the Meals on Wheels budget?

GRAHAM: Well, from a political standpoint, you're right. But this is the problem for whatever the not-left-of-center crew is, now that it's gotten so diverse in the era of Trump is - who's going to talk about how it works? Back to repealing Obamacare, there is a method going forward that works. It involves using tax credits to let people shop. And their choices drive down prices and create more products that they want to buy. But no one's talk about that because you're trapped in this Trump gravitational conversational field.

SIMON: Well, we'll have you back. We have to cut the conversation short. Michael Graham is podcast editor for The Weekly Standard.

Thanks so much for being with us. And you can say thank you if you mean it.

GRAHAM: Oh, thank you so much.

SIMON: And tomorrow on WEEKEND SUNDAY, we'll hear from a new group of women running for political office. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.