Trump makes push on health bill; re­peal-only vote an op­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

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.

AP PHOTO

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.

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