Not dead yet

Trump ex­horts Se­nate to pass Oba­macare re­peal

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Lec­tur­ing fel­low Repub­li­cans, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sum­moned GOP sen­a­tors to the White House Wednes­day and told them face-to-face they must not leave town for their Au­gust re­cess with­out send­ing him an “Oba­macare” re­peal bill to sign. Sen­a­tors re­sponded by vow­ing to re­vive leg­isla­tive ef­forts left for dead twice al­ready this week.

Suc­cess was far from as­sured, but Trump de­clared “I’m ready to act,” putting the re­spon­si­bil­ity on Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers, not him­self. Dur­ing last year’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign he had de­clared re­peat­edly it would be “so easy” to get rid of the Obama law.

The de­vel­op­ments Wednes­day came just a day af­ter the lat­est GOP health care plan col­lapsed in the Se­nate, lead­ing Trump him­self to say it was time to sim­ply let Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law fail. Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell had in­di­cated he was pre­pared to stick a fork in the Re­pub­li­can bill and move on to other is­sues in­clud­ing over­haul­ing the tax code.

But in an ap­par­ent change of heart, in keep­ing with his er­ratic en­gage­ment on the is­sue, Trump pres­sured McCon­nell to de­lay the key vote un­til next week, and he in­vited Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors to the White House for lunch.

There, with the cam­eras rolling in the State Din­ing Room, Trump spoke at length as he ca­joled, scolded and is­sued veiled threats to his fel­low Repub­li­cans, all aimed at wring­ing a health care bill out of a di­vided cau­cus that’s been un­able to pro­duce one so far.

“For seven years you promised the Amer­i­can peo­ple that you would re­peal Oba­macare. Peo­ple are hurt­ing. In­ac­tion is not an op­tion and frankly I don’t think we should leave town un­less we have a health in­sur­ance plan,” he said.

Seated next to Ne­vada Sen. Dean Heller, who is vul­ner­a­ble in next year’s midterm elec­tions, Trump re­marked: “He wants to re­main a se­na­tor, doesn’t he?” as Heller gave a strained grin.

It was not clear that the White House lunch would change the cal­cu­lus in the Se­nate, where McCon­nell has failed re­peat­edly to come up with a bill that can sat­isfy both con­ser­va­tives and mod­er­ates in his Re­pub­li­can con­fer­ence. Two dif­fer­ent ver­sions of re­peal-and-re­place leg­is­la­tion fell short of votes be­fore com­ing to the floor, push­ing him to an­nounce Mon­day night that he would re­treat to a re­peal-only bill that had passed Congress when Obama was in of­fice.

But that bill, too, died a p re­ma­ture death as three GOP sen­a­tors an­nounced their op­po­si­tion on Tues­day, one more than McCon­nell can lose in the closely di­vided Se­nate.

Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing that ap­proach, the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice re­leased an anal­y­sis Wednes­day reaf­firm­ing its ear­lier find­ings that the re­peal-only bill would mean 32 mil­lion ad­di­tional unin­sured peo­ple over a decade and av­er­age pre­mi­ums dou­bling.

And a new AP-NORC poll found that Amer­i­cans over­whelm­ingly want law­mak­ers of both par­ties to work out health care changes, with only 13 per cent sup­port­ing Re­pub­li­can moves to re­peal the Obama law ab­sent a re­place­ment.

At the White House lunch, the dis­cus­sion was not sim­ply about re­peal­ing “Oba­macare” but also how to re­place it as Repub­li­cans said that af­ter seven years of prom­ises, they could not let their ef­forts die with­out one last fight.

“This is more than just a health care de­bate,” said Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas as he left the meet­ing.

“It re­ally means, can we come to­gether as a con­fer­ence, can we come to­gether as a Re­pub­li­can Party, can we come to­gether on a sig­na­ture piece of leg­is­la­tion we’ve talked about for seven years.

“If we don’t, I think it’s pretty clear the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences are star­ing us right in the face,” Roberts added.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion sched­uled a late-night meet­ing at the Capi­tol with Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and others for un­de­cided sen­a­tors to air their con­cerns.

McCon­nell an­nounced that the Se­nate would vote next week to open de­bate, and “I have ev­ery ex­pec­ta­tion that we will be able to get on the bill” — al­though no one seemed quite sure what bill it will be.


U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House in Wash­ing­ton, Wednes­day.

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