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Week In Politics: Senators Work On Health Care Bill While Trump Tweets

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Talk of compromise might be in the air on Capitol Hill. Newly proposed changes to the Republican-backed health care bill might do more to address the opioid epidemic, and that could sway some GOP senators who were not going to approve a previous version of the bill this week. But will it be enough to overcome opposition from Democrats? Let's ask NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro who's in the studio. Hey, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Morning, David.

GREENE: So let's start with Republicans. Are these changes to the bill bringing those very important skeptical Republican senators on board here?

MONTANARO: First of all, never turn your back on a zombie, OK?

GREENE: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: And that's - this bill is a zombie bill. And we saw that in the House before, where people wrote it off. You had Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House say that Obamacare was the law of the land.

GREENE: Yeah.

MONTANARO: And that line...

GREENE: Came back.

MONTANARO: And it came back and wound up passing, so it's quite possible. Don't underestimate the power of persuasion, especially when money is involved. And they're talking about potentially putting more money in for Medicaid, more money in for states that have programs on opioid abuse and possibly paying for it by not - get this - rolling back those tax cuts for the rich.

GREENE: Well, if Republicans can sort of work some sort of magic and get their caucus on board, I mean they could, in theory, pass this without any Democratic support.

MONTANARO: Right.

GREENE: But good question to ask - are any Democrats going to vote for this?

MONTANARO: No.

GREENE: OK.

MONTANARO: Next question. I mean - no, the fact is, Democrats are not voting for this. President Trump understands this. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, understands this. And the stick that McConnell is putting out there is telling his caucus, look, if you don't get on board with this, then we're going to have to, horror of horrors, deal with Democrats.

GREENE: (Laughter) The horror of horrors - that is the message from...

MONTANARO: Yeah, there's a theme here.

GREENE: ...The Republican leader.

Well, let me turn to something that many people are pointing to this morning as potentially bringing Washington together in a way we haven't seen before. And that was a tweet from President Trump describing MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski as, quote, "bleeding badly from a face-lift." Both Republicans and Democrats have pounced on the president for that comment, although we should say White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the remark this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, everybody wants to make this an attack on a woman and equality. What about the constant attacks that he receives or the rest of us?

GREENE: OK. But Domenico, I mean, the White House seems to be very much isolated. A lot of Republicans did not excuse this remark. So worth asking - is - are Republicans beginning to lose patience with their own president?

MONTANARO: I don't think beginning. I think that they would certainly prefer that he doesn't tweet as much as he does. You had Mitch McConnell earlier say that he would love a little less drama from the White House so that they could focus on their agenda priorities. You know, also in that news conference, you had Sarah Huckabee Sanders say, you should look to God if you want a role model. You know, it's an amazing statement because most people would think that the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, should be one.

And, you know, in a tweet like that and these kinds of continued tweets, even people who are his supporters are queasy about him tweeting the way he does. Our NPR/NewsHour/Marist poll found that 69 percent of people, 7 in 10, said that they thought that the president's tweeting was reckless and that they didn't think that it was helpful. So you know, Republicans are split on it. You wonder if they're going to start to go south a little bit on that when you see some more of these kinds of tweets.

GREENE: Well, that's really interesting because, I mean, the president's certainly said worse things. We think back to the "Access Hollywood" tape before the election. The feeling was he didn't - that didn't really cost him politically. You're saying we might be seeing a political cost.

MONTANARO: Well - and look, also in that poll, you saw a lot of independents sort of abandoning this president, moving away from him. And President Trump won independents in the 2016 election by 4 points. And when you have independents going south, they are that one persuadable group. And right now, he doesn't look like he's trying to persuade anyone.

GREENE: NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro - Domenico, thanks as always, and have a great weekend.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Same to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.