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Nation & World

Conservative Media Express Outrage Over Republican Health Care Failure

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Rush Limbaugh and the website Breitbart give a conservative spin to big news developments like this week's collapse of the Republican health care bill. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann has been tracking how this round of the health care debate is playing in conservative media. He found growing anger and impatience aimed squarely at congressional Republicans.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: When Rush Limbaugh opened his microphone today, he unleashed a scorcher against Republicans in the House and Senate, accusing them of betraying President Trump and his agenda, including the repeal of Obamacare.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

RUSH LIMBAUGH: The fight is not Republican versus Democrat. The fight is Donald Trump and his country and you, the Trump base, versus the Washington establishment. It has always been that.

MANN: There's growing frustration in conservative media aimed not at the president but at Republican leaders in Congress. The influential conservative site Breitbart that has close ties to the White House today accused Republicans of wasting Trump's first seven months in office. Drudge's high-traffic website blasted out a banner headline describing this as the most unproductive Congress in 164 years. On his syndicated radio show this afternoon, Sean Hannity called today's developments an epic fail by Republicans.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW")

SEAN HANNITY: They better, better get their act together fast or they're all going to pay the price politically. And that's my message to these dopey swamp people in Washington and, yeah, mostly the Republicans.

MANN: Obamacare has grown more popular with voters nationwide. But in the conservative media that shapes much of the public opinion in red states and conservative congressional districts, the Affordable Care Act is still portrayed as toxic, something that has to be killed for the good of the country. This morning, many of those media outlets tried to push a different strategy. Obamacare should be repealed immediately, they argued, even if there was nothing ready to replace it. The idea was put forward by President Trump on Twitter and quickly embraced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Influential outlets from redstate.com to the National Review rallied around the idea. But on his show today, Limbaugh predicted the new plan wouldn't garner enough votes.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

LIMBAUGH: The career Republicans in Washington don't want to touch Obamacare. They don't want to repeal it.

MANN: And by mid-afternoon this effort, too, unraveled as three Republican senators announced they won't support it. After weeks of bruising debate and conservative infighting, some media voices on the right have begun calling for at least a partial pivot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NEWT GINGRICH: Do as much as they can on health care right now, but they shouldn't spend the whole rest of this year on one issue.

MANN: Speaking on Fox News yesterday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich urged a quick refocus on jobs and prosperity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GINGRICH: If we don't have economic growth next year, I think we're in real danger of having Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019.

MANN: So the big narrative in conservative media today is that Republicans screwed up royally on the Obamacare fight, failing to help the president move his agenda. They saw this moment as another test of the GOP's loyalty to Donald Trump and of their ability to get things done, a test they say Republican lawmakers failed. For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And we'll have more coverage on this story elsewhere in the program. And tomorrow morning on MORNING EDITION - the history of Medicaid. The government program established in the 1960s is still at the center of the health care debate. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.