Appearing on Fox & Friends this morning, Donald Trump explained that Republicans “have the votes” to pass the Graham-Cassidy health care bill but the legislation nonetheless can’t pass because a crucial senator is in the hospital.
In reality, there is no hospitalized senator. But Trump has constructed for himself an alternative version of reality in which not only is there a hospitalized senator but the budget reconciliation instructions which expire tomorrow somehow return early next year, meaning that when the fake senator’s hospitalization ends they’ll be able to come back and pass the bill.
Fox & Friends host Pete Hegseth, remarkably, did not press Trump on this extraordinary claim.
But Trump keeps saying it. The “hospitalized senator” theory first appeared on his Twitter account Wednesday morning.
Then during his tax reform comments later that day he made a modified version of the claim, saying the issue was that “we have a wonderful senator, great, great senator, who is a yes vote, but he’s home recovering from a pretty tough situation.”
This appears to be a reference to Sen. Thad Cochran who, though not hospitalized, is at home recuperating from some kind of urological issue.
However, Trump appears to have cause and effect reversed here. According to Cochran’s staff, he is resting in Mississippi because there are no crucial senate votes rather than the senate not holding votes because Cochran is in Mississippi. No less an authority than Bill Cassidy stated flatly on Tuesday that “we don’t have the votes” with John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Rand Paul all publicly opposed. Indeed, the real question regarding the whip count seems to be whether or not the bill really has the unanimous support of all the other senators, or if a handful of private opponents are simply laying low and letting those four take the heat.
Either way, the situation poses the obvious question of why Trump is saying this.
Is he trying to mislead his supporters? Is someone on his staff trying to mislead him? Has he become confused and nobody on his staff wants to correct him?