Congressional Republicans discussed Obamacare repeal a at closed-door meeting on Thursday, and by Friday, the Washington Post had obtained secretly-recorded audio of the meeting and published word-for-word excerpts from it. Contained in the transcript is something remarkable: A Republican lawmaker arguing that the party shouldn't try to defund Planned Parenthood, as doing so would attract too much social media pressure. Apparently, all of those tweets about Planned Parenthood actually accomplished something.
“Health insurance is going to be tough enough for us to deal with without having millions of people on social media come to Planned Parenthood’s defense and sending hundreds of thousands of new donors to the Democratic Senate and Democratic congressional campaign committees," New York Rep. John Faso reportedly said, arguing that Republicans shouldn't include a Planned Parenthood defund in an Obamacare repeal bill. "So I would just urge us to rethink this,” Faso said. The Post said that Faso's comments garnered "tepid applause" from other Republicans.
To be sure, this doesn't mean the Republican Party has suddenly changed their minds on the merits of Planned Parenthood funding. Faso is but one member of the GOP, and it's not at all clear that Republican leadership will take him up on his suggestion when it comes time to put Obamacare repeal up for a vote. More importantly, Faso said later in the meeting that he has "no problem" if Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood separately from the Obamacare repeal bill.
Rep John Faso at GOP retreat "warned strongly against...defund[ing] Planned Parenthood"— dan holler (@danholler) January 27, 2017
Candidate Faso in 2016 opposed public funding of PP
Nevertheless, this is nothing short of amazing. Faso's comments are evidence — perhaps the first we've seen —of social media activism from the left influencing the political calculus within the GOP. That's nearly unheard of. When was the last time you saw a Republican change their tune on health care policy as a result of liberal activists criticizing them on Twitter? You haven't. The fact that Faso said this in a private meeting with his fellow Republicans make his admission all the more remarkable.
There are some more important takeaways from the Post's reporting on that meeting, by the way. Some Republicans are clearly getting cold feet at the prospect of repealing Obamacare, and are acknowledging to each other that it would be political suicide to scrap the law without providing coverage to those who'd lose it under repeal.
“We’re telling those people that we’re not going to pull the rug out from under them," Rep. Tom MacArthur said, adding "and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them.” Rep. Tom McClintock said that Republicans had "better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created," as the GOP "will own that lock, stock and barrel, and we’ll be judged in the election less than two years away.”
Notably, and amusingly, some conservatives promptly criticized Faso and the GOP for taking Americans' views on Planned Parenthood into consideration.
If the GOP won’t defund Planned Parenthood because they’re scared of twitter trolls, they’re incapable of governing https://t.co/cKEjcoiF4i— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) January 27, 2017
Faso is worried about exact things you don't worry about in a fight like defunding PP. It's how the base turns to someone like Trump.— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) January 27, 2017
The many unanswered questions about the GOP's Obamacare repeal plan notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is that social media activism, which is often derided as ineffective or lazy, actually managed to penetrate the corridors of power in Washington. That's incredible, and it's something opponents of the President Trump's regime shouldn't forget any time soon.