Trump says health bill must pass
He’d be ‘very angry’ otherwise; McConnell ‘has to pull it off’
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he will be “very angry” if the Senate fails to pass a revamped Republican health care bill, adding that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must “pull it off.”
Trump’s remarks came a day before McConnell, R-Ky., is to release his revised legislation at a closed meeting of GOP senators. With Democrats united in their opposition to the bill, McConnell needs support from 50 of the chamber’s 52 Republicans next week to approve a motion to begin debate.
Conservative Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Wednesday that he would oppose the motion. Several other GOP senators have expressed concerns about the legislation, leaving McConnell and the rest of the Republican leadership with days to win them over.
In a White House interview conducted Wednesday for the Christian Broadcasting Network’s The 700 Club, Trump said it was time for action by Republicans who during Barack Obama’s presidency cast scores of votes “that didn’t mean anything” in their attempts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Well, I don’t even want to talk about it because I think it would be very bad,” he said when interviewer Pat Robertson asked what would happen if the effort fails. “I will be very angry about it, and a lot of people will be very upset.”
Asked if McConnell would succeed, Trump said, “Mitch has to pull it off.”
“I am sitting in the Oval Office with a pen in hand, waiting for our senators to give it to me,” Trump said. “It has to get passed. They have to do it. They have to get together and get it done.”
Trump previously has floated the possibility that lawmakers could repeal the health care law and replace it later — a view that administration officials have stressed is not their preference.
Excerpts from the interview with Robertson were released Wednesday afternoon. The full interview is set to air today.
Trump has played a limited role in cajoling GOP senators to back the legislation. Asked Wednesday about the president’s involvement, spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House was providing “technical assistance.”
McConnell’s new bill was expected to offer only modest departures from the original version.
Its key elements remain in place. The measure would relax requirements that insurers cover specified services like hospital care and would make cuts to Medicaid, though the new version provides money to ease those reductions.
Penalties on people who don’t buy coverage would be eliminated, federal health care subsidies would be less generous, and $ 45 billion would be allocated to help states combat drug abuse.
The new package would eliminate tax increases the Affordable Care Act imposed on the health care industry. But it would retain tax increases on upper- income people, and it would use the revenue to help lower-earners afford coverage.
Paul told reporters that the revised measure didn’t go far enough.
“I don’t see anything in here really remotely resembling repeal,” he said.
Annie Clarke, the spokesman for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Collins would vote against the bill next week “if the Medicaid cuts remain the same” as those that have been discussed. Collins has said that millions of people will lose coverage if the Senate legislation passes.
A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the original Senate plan projected that it would lead to 22 million fewer Americans having coverage within a decade.
In addition to Paul and Collins, at least two other Republican senators publicly said they hadn’t decided whether to back McConnell on the initial vote: Ted Cruz of Texas and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
Cruz is the chief author of a proposal backed by other conservatives that would let insurers sell low-premium, bare-bones policies as long as the companies also sell plans covering all the services — like substance abuse treatment — required by the Affordable Care Act.
Cruz’s plan has alienated moderates who worry that healthier people would flock to cheaper, skimpier plans, driving up the price of coverage for people with serious medical conditions. Party leaders have not determined whether Cruz’s plan will be in their measure, and there have been talks of altering it to limit premium increases on full-coverage policies.
“If there are not meaningful protections for consumer freedom that will significantly lower premiums, then the bill will not have the votes to go forward,” Cruz said.
His proposal endured another blow when the insurance industry’s largest trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said it would lead to “unstable health insurance markets” and that people with serious pre-existing medical conditions could “lose access” to comprehensive or reasonably priced coverage.
Scott said he was still trying to determine whether the revised legislation would help families and consumers with pre-existing medical problems.
McConnell withdrew an initial package two weeks ago after encountering opposition from Republicans.
Information for this article was contributed by Alan Fram, Erica Werner, Jill Colvin and Matthew Daly of The Associated Press; and by John Wagner of The Washington Post.