Editor’s Note: Shortly after this chat first posted, the White House announced Price was out.
Zach Wolf [2:58 PM] – Donald Trump will be sitting at his golf club in Bedminster this weekend, and in between watching some football and engaging with Puerto Rico relief efforts, he’ll also have to figure out how to deal with his HHS secretary. You argued earlier today that Price’s near-addiction to private jet travel is a fireable offense.
Chris Cillizza [3:01 PM] – I did! And I think it quite clearly is. It goes against so many Trumpian principles: Anti-elitism, swamp draining, bad press caused by underlings. Plus, Price, who has never been in Trump’s inner circle, is totally expendable. He can also serve as a convenient scapegoat for the failure of repeal and replace on Obamacare. Firing him almost makes too much sense…
Zach Wolf [3:20 PM] – I’m not saying you’re WRONG, necessarily, about any of those points. But there are two reasons he might not fire the man. 1. Trump likes to zig when everyone wants him to zag. He does not like being told what to do. The conventional wisdom, right now, is telling him to fire Price. And the 2. could they find anyone to replace him?
Chris Cillizza [3:31 PM] – On #1, you’re right. Buuuuuuut. Trump hates when his underlings get bad press more than he hates bowing to CW. (I think.) And, on #2: OF COURSE he can find someone to replace Price. We may not think HHS secretary is any great shakes but I bet there would be 1,000 people in a line to get that job. You’d be a Cabinet secretary! Think of all the private jet travel!
Zach Wolf [3:35 PM] – It’ll be an interesting job. Rather than implement a new Republican health care plan, the HHS secretary is going to be trying to starve out Obamacare, which would be somewhat less fun. Plus, you’ll be taking on an issue where your boss has already failed spectacularly, so far, to deliver on a promise. Any HHS confirmation hearings now could become spectacles for Democrats to drive home their points. Why not just let Price stay there? He’d owe you one.
Chris Cillizza [3:40 PM] – Ok, here’s the glass-half-full look — as opposed to your glass-mostly-empty one. Trump continues to insist he will push Graham-Cassidy (or something like it) early next year. He doesn’t have the votes (although he says he does) but if he is willing to push, then the HHS secretary could have a real role to play. (That’s unlike Price who got pushed aside early on in the process.)
Zach Wolf [3:42 PM] – That’s a fair point, although I’m not sure any HHS secretary is going to play a huge role in what is essentially an arm-twisting effort to get those last few votes. If Trump decides to damn the torpedoes and start working with Democrats, that’s a different scenario entirely, and one in which Price would not be helpful at all.
Chris Cillizza [3:48 PM] – Sure. But, I think you underestimate the allure of being a Cabinet secretary — even under a president as unpredictable as Trump.
Zach Wolf [3:49 PM] – Oh, geez. As we’re having this debate, Trump is literally telling reporters at the White House he’s going to decide Price’s fate tonight, which adds a bit of theater to this whole thing and also puts a very short shelf life on this thing we’re doing.
Chris Cillizza [3:49 PM] -- Having “Cabinet secretary” on your resume makes you infinitely more attractive to future employers, book publishers and speaking agencies. What a cliffhanger. He said Price is a good man. Which he also said about Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon. Uh oh.
Zach Wolf [3:49 PM] – Yeah, I think it’s possible I will be on the wrong side of this debate.
Chris Cillizza [3:50 PM] – Zach Wolf: Wrong side of history.
Zach Wolf [3:50 PM] – But I will see your Reince Priebus and raise you a Jeff Sessions.
Chris Cillizza [3:50 PM] – Give me your best guess: Price fired? And, if so, who is the replacement
Chris Cillizza [3:52] – I say yes and Seema Verma
Zach Wolf [3:52 PM] – I’ve changed my mind after seeing Trump just now. I think he’s out. And I’m just throwing out the first name that comes to mind: Seema Verma, the CMS administrator.
Chris Cillizza [3:52 PM] – BOOM
Zach Wolf [3:52 PM] – NO!
Chris Cillizza [3:52 PM] – Seema Verma!
Zach Wolf [3:52 PM] – Jinx.
Chris Cillizza [3:52 PM] – It’s decided then.
Zach Wolf [3:53 PM] – See you tonight when we’ll find out, apparently. Nothing like a Friday night in the Trump administration.