Trump sig­nals open­ness to Democrats

Aides say col­lab­o­ra­tion on ta­ble as pres­i­dent rips GOP con­ser­va­tives.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Hope Yen

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Sun­day at­tacked con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers for the fail­ure of the Repub­li­can bill to re­place for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, as aides sig­naled a greater will­ing­ness to work with mod­er­ate Democrats on up­com­ing leg­isla­tive bat­tles from the bud­get and tax cuts to health care.

On Twit­ter, Trump com­plained: “Democrats are smil­ing in D.C. that the Free­dom Cau­cus, with the help of Club For Growth and Her­itage, have saved Planned Par­ent­hood & Ocare!”

The Free­dom Cau­cus is a far­right group of more than 30 GOP House mem­bers who were largely re­spon­si­ble for block­ing the bill to undo the Af­ford­able Care Act, or “Oba­macare.” The bill was pulled from the House floor Fri­day in a hu­mil­i­at­ing po­lit­i­cal de­feat for the pres­i­dent, hav­ing lacked sup­port from ei­ther the con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans or Democrats.

Trump ini­tially fo­cused his

blame on Democrats for the fail­ure and pre­dicted a dire fu­ture for the cur­rent law.

But on Sun­day, his aides made clear that Trump would be seek­ing sup­port from mod­er­ate Democrats, leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­ity he could still re­visit health care leg­is­la­tion. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus scolded con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans, ex­plain­ing that Trump had felt “dis­ap­pointed” that a “num­ber of peo­ple he thought were loyal to him that weren’t.”

“It’s time for the party to start gov­ern­ing,” Priebus said. “I think it’s time for our folks to come to­gether, and I also think it’s time to po­ten­tially get a few mod­er­ate Democrats on board as well.”

As he pon­ders his next steps, Trump faces de­ci­sions on whether to back ad­min­is­tra­tive changes to fix Oba­macare or un­der­mine it as prices for in­sur­ance plans rise in many mar­kets. Over the week­end, the pres­i­dent tweeted a prom­ise of achiev­ing a “great health­care plan” be­cause Oba­macare will “ex­plode.”

On Sun­day, Priebus did not an­swer di­rectly re­gard­ing Trump’s choice, say­ing that fixes to the health law will have to come leg­isla­tively and he wants to en­sure “peo­ple don’t get left be­hind.”

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats stand ready to work with Trump to fix Oba­macare if he is will­ing to drop at­tempts to re­peal the law and not un­der­mine it. He warned that Trump is des­tined to “lose again” on other parts of his agenda if he re­mains be­holden to con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans.

“If he changes, he could have a dif­fer­ent pres­i­dency,” Schumer said. “But he’s go­ing to have to tell the Free­dom Cau­cus and the hard-right spe­cial wealthy in­ter­ests who are dom­i­nat­ing his pres­i­dency ... he can’t work with them, and we’ll cer­tainly look at his pro­pos­als.”

Their com­ments came af­ter another day of fin­ger­point­ing among Repub­li­cans, both sub­tle and not-so sub­tle. On Satur­day, Trump urged Amer­i­cans in a tweet to watch Judge Jea­nine Pirro’s pro­gram on Fox that night. She led her show by call­ing for House Speaker Paul Ryan to re­sign, blam­ing him for de­feat of the bill in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled cham­ber.

Priebus de­scribed the two events as “co­in­ci­den­tal,” in­sist­ing that Trump was help­ing out a friend by plug­ging her show and that no “pre­plan­ning” oc­curred.

“He doesn’t blame Paul Ryan,” Priebus said. “In fact, he thought Paul Ryan worked re­ally hard. He en­joys his re­la­tion­ship with Paul Ryan, thinks that Paul Ryan is a great speaker of the House.”

A spokes­woman for Ryan, Ash­Lee Strong, said Ryan and Trump spoke for nearly an hour Satur­day and again on Sun­day about mov­ing for­ward on the agenda, say­ing “their re­la­tion­ship is stronger than ever right now.” In their Sun­day con­ver­sa­tion, Trump “was clear his tweet had noth­ing to do with the speaker,” Strong said.

The White House faces a tall task in gain­ing sup­port for its con­gres­sional agenda. Trump, for in­stance, now lacks the sav­ings an­tic­i­pated from the health care bill to help pay for tax cuts, while ex­pected leg­is­la­tion to in­vest $1 tril­lion in roads and in­fra­struc­ture and to cut down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion will likely need sup­port from Democrats.

Priebus said Trump is look­ing ahead for now at de­bate over the bud­get and a tax plan, which he said would in­clude a bor­der ad­just­ment tax and mid­dle-class tax cuts.

“It’s more or less a warn­ing shot that we are will­ing to talk to any­one, we al­ways have been,” he said. “I think more so now than ever, it’s time for both par­ties to come to­gether and get to real re­forms in this coun­try.”

Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., chair­man of the Free­dom Cau­cus, ac­knowl­edged he was do­ing a lot of “self-cri­tiquing” af­ter the health care de­feat. He in­sisted the GOP over­haul ef­fort was not over and that he re­gret­ted not spend­ing more time with mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans and Democrats “to find some con­sen­sus.”

Mead­ows also said he was open to a tax plan that is not fully “off­set” so it is rev­enue neu­tral. That’s a shift for a fis­cal con­ser­va­tive con­cerned about deficits.

Priebus spoke on “Fox News Sun­day,” and Schumer and Mead­ows ap­peared on ABC’s “This Week.”

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