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First there was President Trump’s evidence-free claim that his predecessor had tapped his phone. Then there was last week’s Republican broadside against the Congressional Budget Office over its not-then-released analysis of their health care plan. Finally on Friday, the government released the monthly jobs numbers — finally, actual facts! — only to see the White House respond by accusing (first implicitly, then explicitly) the Obama administration of cooking the books in the past. (There is no evidence that it did so.)
This week, however, facts struck back. The CBO on Monday released its report on the Republican health care plan. As expected, the report predicted that the plan would cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance. Less expected was what happened next: People listened. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, said she would oppose the bill because it would leave too many of her constituents uninsured. Her New Jersey colleague Leonard Lance said the CBO report had “modified the dynamics” and that he wouldn’t support a bill that was likely doomed in the Senate in any case. By the middle of the week, the consensus in Washington was that the CBO had seriously weakened the bill’s chances of passage.
Then on Wednesday evening, a federal judge in Hawaii issued an order temporarily blocking Trump’s revised ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. Judge Derrick Watson’s blistering ruling (“The illogic of the government’s contentions is palpable,” read one line) argued that, essentially, Trump couldn’t tell the courts that the ban had nothing to do with religion while his advisers were going around saying the opposite on television. Or, even more succinctly: Facts matter.
Watson’s ruling (and a similar one from a judge in Maryland on Thursday) will no doubt be appealed, and the GOP health care plan is likewise far from dead. But this week suggested that if Trump wants to enact his agenda, he will need facts as well as rhetoric on his side.
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