Trump makes push on health bill; repeal-only vote an option
President Donald Trump is making a weekend push to get a Republican Senate bill to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law “across the finish line,’’ Trump’s top legislative aide said Sunday, maintaining that a repeal-only option also remained in play if Republicans can’t reach agreement.
Marc Short, the White House’s legislative director, said Trump was making calls to wavering senators and insisted they were “getting close’’ on passing a bill.
But Short said Trump continues to believe that repealonly legislation should also be considered after raising the possibility last Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has dismissed that suggestion and said he intended to proceed with legislation being negotiated over the July 4 recess.
“We hope when we come back, the week after recess, we’ll have a vote,’’ Short said. But he added: “If the replacement part is too difficult for Republicans to get together, then let’s go back and take care of the first step of repeal.’’
Trump on Friday tweeted the suggestion repealing the Obama-era law right away and then replacing it later, an approach that GOP leaders and the president himself considered but dismissed months ago as impractical and politically unwise. But the tweet came amid continuing signs of GOP disagreement among moderates and conservatives over the bill. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate. Just three GOP defections would doom the legislation, because Democrats are united in opposition.
Republicans returned to their home districts late last week, bracing for a flood of phone calls, emails and television advertising from both conservative and liberal groups aimed at pressuring senators. Sen. Bill Cassidy held a town hall meeting last Friday to talk about flood recovery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital city, but audience members angry over the GOP health care bill at times chanted over Cassidy’s answers and criticized the secretive legislative process.
“I wish we weren’t doing it one party,’’ Cassidy said Sunday, adding he remains undecided on how he will vote.
Trump’s suggestion had the potential to harden divisions within the GOP as conservatives complain that McConnell’s bill does not go far enough in repealing Obama’s health care law while moderates criticize it as overly harsh in kicking people off insurance rolls, shrinking the Medicaid safety net and increasing premiums for older Americans.
“It’s not easy making America great again, is it?’’ McConnell said late Friday.
Short said the White House remained hopeful after Senate Republicans submitted two version of the bill to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring over the weeklong recess. Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz is pushing a conservative version that aims to aggressively reduce costs by giving states greater flexibility to create separate higher-risk pools.
The other seeks to bolster health care subsidies for lowerincome people, perhaps by preserving a tax boost on high earners.
A staff member puts out a poster of a reported quote by President Donald Trump as Senate Democrats hold a news conference responding to the release of the Republicans’ healthcare bill which represents the long-awaited attempt to scuttle much of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22.