Obamacare repeal vote upends 2018 House landscape – By ALEX ISENSTADT and GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI 05/06/17


Republicans worry their incumbents will pay for the vote, and signs abound of an energized Democratic base.

American Action Network, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, has begun airing TV ads in the districts of 21 Republicans who voted for the bill that aim to generate public support for the legislation. | Getty

This week’s vote to replace Obamacare has scrambled the 2018 House landscape, jeopardizing Republican lawmakers across the country and potentially endangering the party’s longstanding grip on the chamber.

More than a dozen senior Republican strategists, lawmakers, and potential candidates expressed varying degrees of concern over the political implications of the health care push. Some predicted that House members would face a fierce backlash from voters, while others said the party had erred badly in rushing through a bill that lacked broad public support.

The vote, combined with President Donald Trump’s record-low poll numbers and rising public dissatisfaction with how Republicans are wielding power over the federal government, has produced a cauldron of instability for the party, which is holding onto a 24-seat edge in the House. There is also the weight of history: In every midterm election since 2002, the party in the White House has lost congressional seats.

Some Republicans said the political environment surrounding the chamber had become more unpredictable than at any point since 2010, when they took power in an historic 63-seat wave.

“With this vote or not, we were headed to one of the most competitive, shifting, and volatile mid-year congressional elections in a number of years,” said Nick Everhart, a veteran Republican strategist who is working on a number of 2018 contests. “Between open seats, candidate recruitment, and legislative battles to come there are still so many variables that are going to shape the playing field.”

Several operatives said they were spending the end of the week trying to gauge fallout after some House Republicans admitted in televised interviews that they hadn’t read the full bill before voting for it — footage that could well appear in Democratic commercials come next year.

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President Obama’s no-Congress strategy


President Obama is pictured. | AP Photo

The president is done caring about congressional Republicans calling him a dictator. | AP Photo

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President Barack Obama is planning to bypass congressional Republicans with a surge of executive actions and orders on issues like voting rights, health care, job creation, the economy, climate change and immigration.

And this time, he really, really, really means it. Really.

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Obama’s started to sell his pitch to congressional Democrats, meeting with caucus groups at the White House and going to the Hill on Wednesday morning to speak with House and Senate Democrats.

(PHOTOS: Obama’s second term)

“I have to figure out what I can do outside of Congress through executive actions,” Obama told the Congressional Black Caucus earlier this month, according to Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.).

“He’s very ready to use his executive powers whenever possible,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) who heard Obama discuss the new approach at a meeting of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus to the White House last week.

With the clock running on Obama’s time in office — he’s even started marking the number of days left in public speeches — the president is done caring about congressional Republicans calling him a dictator. Or calling him at all.

Obama can’t ignore Republicans forever. There’s no way for the president to avoid negotiations to get continuing resolutions to avoid a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling — and depending how things go, rebuff GOP efforts to defund Obamacare and possibly a compromise on immigration reform. Chief of staff Denis McDonough’s functioning as an almost one-man legislative affairs office can’t do it all.

(Also on POLITICO: W.H. seeks to redefine grand bargain)

And he’s used the executive authority tactic before, including last summer’s controversial move to cut deportations for younger illegal immigrants and the mental health focus he announced as part of his gun control agenda after the Newtown massacre.

But administration officials and advisers say what’s ahead will be more extensive and frequent than previous efforts, and the White House is on the hunt for anything that can move without congressional approval, including encouraging efforts like Attorney General Eric Holder’s lawsuits to find new avenues of enforcement in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act last month.

He’s even started soliciting suggestions for where to move next. Bass and other CBC members asked him to change the Medicaid process in territories to base allocations on income level, to repeal the Bush minimum wage federal contractor policies and to address child welfare. The CAPAC members also offered suggestions like changing the federal government’s process of recognizing native Hawaiians.

Obama told them he was open to all of them, and said his staff is working on others in the model of the new emission standards he announced as part of his climate agenda last month.

Eventually, executive actions and orders will be unveiled as part of the economic agenda Obama began hinting at in his speeches last week, addressing things like mortgage refinancing and restructuring — which is about as extensive as the White House expects things to get, even as they talk of welcoming negotiations with Republicans over the debt ceiling. And get ready, he’s told people, for a whole lot more recess appointments if Republicans start blocking his nominees again.

Executive actions are a familiar move for second-term presidents, and one that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush came to know well: rules and regulations can have deep and wide impact, and they come without all the messiness of Capitol Hill.

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