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March 26, 2017

Trump to Pennsylvania Rep. Dent: You're 'destroying the Republican party'

In the wake of last Friday's stunning cancellation of a vote to replace the Affordable Care Act, questions abound about President Donald Trump's plans going forward. 

Has the president squandered his momentum? Did he underestimate, on an issue so vital to the American public, the likelihood of failure in a rush-job? Will the administration now abandon health care reform and pivot, if it can, to addressing its other priorities, such as tax reform and infrastructure?

In a lengthy examination by The New York Times Magazine, Trump's growing battle with different wings of the Republican-backed Congress exposes what appears to be the president's panic over the identity of his party. Anecdotal evidence suggests his make-or-break perception of the health care bill ran deeper than his public pronouncements over the past few weeks. 

That panic reportedly took the form of a tongue-lashing for Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, a Lehigh Valley moderate who has often criticized Washington for its "spending problem" and offered support for some of House Speaker Paul Ryan's budget proposals dating back to the Obama administration.

Dent maintained throughout this year's health care debate that he would not support the bill if it came to a vote. That wasn't what Trump wanted to hear last Thursday as he organized meetings with both the conservative and moderate wings of the GOP. From The New York Times: 

Trump hosted another meeting with the moderates, where Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania informed Trump that he remained a “no.” According to an attendee, Trump angrily informed Dent that he was “destroying the Republican Party” and “was going to take down tax reform — and I’m going to blame you.”

Appearing Sunday morning on NBC's "Meet the Press," Dent confirmed the exchange and criticized the president for creating "artificial timelines" and "arbitrary deadlines" without giving the issues the serious debate and discussion they warrant.

Moving forward on health care, Dent suggested Washington should consult with governors who have been vocal about the impact any reform will have on the citizens of their respective states.

For Trump, another setback and ongoing scrutiny of his campaign's ties to Russia could soon force him to change the way he sells himself as a policymaker and where he positions himself among constituent-focused members of his party in Congress.