RISE Summit 2017 kicks off with talk of Trump, politics, ACA

Political analyst and journalist Howard Fineman delivers a keynote address Monday during the 2017 RISE Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Leslie Small

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Though the annual RISE Summit takes place in "Music City," the 2017 conference began with a discussion about what’s going on in the nation’s capital.

The reason, according to CenseoHealth Chief Strategy Officer Nathan Goldstein, is simple.

“Every one of us works at a job deeply influenced by what happens in Washington,” he said during the RISE chairpersons’ opening remarks.

With that in mind, keynote speaker Howard Fineman—an NBC/MSNBC political analyst and global editorial director of The Huffington Post Media Group—offered an insider’s view of the current climate within the Beltway now that President Donald Trump is in power.

Many new administrations come to the White House with a combination of a “burst of energy” and confusion about the complicated task of governing, he said, but with the exception of perhaps the Carter administration, “nobody has come in knowing less about how it all works than the Trump people.”

The Trump administration nevertheless is very sure about the way it wants to run the government, he added, and Democrats are just as determined to impede the Republicans’ agenda.

“I’ve never seen the city this divided into warring, distrustful and mutually exclusive camps,” Fineman said.

That contentious political climate also colors Republicans’ plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to Fineman.

RELATED: House Republicans reveal ACA repeal, replacement plan

Because the party is simultaneously worried about angering hardline conservatives who want only a repeal and moderates who are worried that the replacement won’t go far enough, he said, Republicans are “at best cautious, and at worst, sort of already weary even before the battle starts.”

Democrats, he predicted, will stay away from the healthcare policy overhaul almost entirely—even though there are some from conservative or swing states who are up for re-election in 2018 and might be under pressure to support some form of an ACA replacement.

But for Republicans, too, political pressure has shifted their focus from calls to unwind the law to actually detailing what will replace it.

“A lot of Republicans have started to worry that if they just focus on the repeal part, the politics of this are going to change pretty rapidly,” Fineman said.