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Trump’s Gamble: Does He Want to Win on Health Care or Pull the Plug?

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter

Health care push was 'rookie error' by Trump, Chuck Todd says 3:35

Trump’s giant gamble: Does he want to win or pull the plug?

President Trump’s ultimatum that House Republicans today vote up or down their health-care overhaul bill is quite a gamble. It could go down to spectacular defeat; after all, there was a reason the votes weren’t there yesterday. Or Trump’s dare could provide wavering House conservatives the motivation they need to pass the legislation. But here’s a bigger question — which could give us the real clue about today’s vote: Does Trump really want to win? Or is he pulling the plug, so he can move on to other issues and not own something that just 17% of Americans support, according to a Quinnipiac poll?

Related: Republicans Pull Health Care Bill From House Floor

As we know, Trump hasn’t had much patience with this health-care debate. “I want to cut the hell out of taxes, but — but before I can do that — I would have loved to have put it first, I’ll be honest — there is one more very important thing that we have to do, and we are going to repeal and replace horrible, disastrous Obamacare,” he said in Nashville, TN earlier this month. That doesn’t sound like someone willing to do whatever it takes — and how long it takes — to win, right? And get this: The White House today will be announcing approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, per NBC’s Kristen Welker. (Sounds like a team that’s already moving on, right?) Also note who aren’t in Washington right now: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Is passage good or bad for Trump?

Another big question to chew on: Is House passage good or bad for Trump? On the one hand, a defeat today could wreck the president’s first 100 days (where’s the big legislative achievement?) and put the rest of his agenda (tax cuts, infrastructure) in jeopardy. So in that case, of course Trump wants to win. But on the other hand, passage could create even more problems — it prolongs an unpopular bill, it highlights a messy process, and it faces an EVEN harder fight ahead in the Senate. So a win is a win. But is this a win that Trump really wants to own?

Related: Trump Blames Democrats After Bill Pulled, Says Obamacare 'Will Explode'

Trump to House GOP: Pass health care bill or Obamacare stays 3:02

Does the Senate want this bill to pass?

That’s the other part of this equation. Don’t miss what Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, tweeted last night: “FYI: The ‘Byrd Rule’ is actually a law.” Translation for those unfamiliar with Senate arcana: The legislation that House Republicans are trying to pass probably don’t meet the rules that can avoid a Senate filibuster. Think about it, Cornyn is warning his House colleagues that this legislation can’t pass the Senate. And that’s precisely what Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) stated earlier this month: “I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, 'Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.'"

Did House Republicans make a mockery of the process?

A final question: Did House Republicans make a mess of the process? House Republicans have set up final passage a mere 18 days after first introducing the legislation. They’ve made final revisions (eliminating Essential Health Benefits, creatinga $15 billion fund to help pay for maternity and newborn care) that haven’t been scored yet by the Congressional Budget Office (and that very well could end increase the deficit). And they’ve said things like this: “In my district, right now there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what is we’re doing, and once we get it done, and then we can have the chance to really explain it,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) told MSNBC last night. In other words, you have to PASS the bill before you can EXPLAIN it. Indeed, they have violated EVERY process criticism they made up Democrats back in 2009-2010, and have actually made those Democrats look like the Roman Senate by comparison.

NBC’s latest whip count: 32 House Republicans are against or leaning against the House GOP health-care bill

A big caveat to our latest numbers: There are some conservative Freedom Caucus members who were wavering last night. We’ll see how they vote.

  • Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
  • Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI)
  • Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)
  • Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)
  • Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL)
  • Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA)
  • Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)
  • Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA)
  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtin (R-FL)
  • Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
  • Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC)
  • Rep. John Katko (R-NY)
  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
  • Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)
  • Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC)
  • Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR)
  • Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)
  • Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN)
  • Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH)
  • Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
  • Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA)
  • Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)
  • Rep. David Young (R-IA)
  • Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
  • Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY)
  • Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)
  • Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
  • Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)
  • Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL)
  • Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)

What were other presidents doing on March 24?