Trump: “It has to get passed”
President says he’ll be “very angry” if the Senate GOP fails.
WASHINGTON» President Trump on Wednesday put the onus squarely on Senate Republicans to pass a health care bill, declaring that he will be “very angry” if the chamber falls short on a longstanding promise of his party.
“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.”
The president — who has been criticized by some allies for not doing enough to sell the unpopular legislation — spoke out during an interview at the White House with televangelist Pat Robertson of CBN News.
The urgency Trump placed on the task stood in sharp contrast to comments last month, when he
said that it would be unfortunate if the bill didn’t reach his desk but that it would be “OK.”
In the interview with Robertson, Trump suggested that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was most responsible now for the fate of a bill overhauling the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
“He’s got to pull it off,” Trump said. “Mitch has to pull it off. He’s working very hard. He’s got to pull it off.”
McConnell announced Tuesday that he would cut the chamber’s August recess in half, saying the GOP needed more time on the protracted negotiations over the health care legislation as well as other issues.
McConnell has been working to bridge differences between moderates and conservatives in his caucus to come up with a bill that 50 of the 52 Republicans in the chamber can support. A House bill passed in early May.
“For years, they’ve been talking about repeal-replace, repeal-replace,” Trump said. “I think they passed it 61 times (during Obama’s presidency), but that didn’t mean anything because you had the minority. The Republicans, they didn’t have the majority, so it wasn’t going to get to the president. But if it ever did, Obama wasn’t going to sign it.”
“Now we have a president that’s waiting to sign it,” Trump said. “I have pen in hand, so now it means something. You know, those other times, those many, many times that they passed it, it didn’t mean anything.”
Excerpts from the interview with Robertson were released Wednesday afternoon. The full interview is set to air on “The 700 Club” on Thursday.
As the Republican push to revamp the Affordable Care Act has stalled again, even some Trump boosters have questioned whether he effectively has used the bully pulpit afforded by his office and have been increasingly frustrated by distractions related to the Russia probe.
Trump has spoken out repeatedly about the shortcomings of Obamacare, which he brands a “disaster.” But he has made relatively little effort to detail for the public why Republican replacement plans would improve on the former president’s signature initiative.
Trump’s public efforts to dismantle the health care law contrast sharply with Obama’s efforts to build support in advance of its 2010 passage. Obama gave a joint address to Congress on health care. He fielded questions at town hall meetings around the country. He even bantered on live television with hostile lawmakers at a Republican retreat.
Trump’s public statements about the bills, at times, have risked doing more harm than good, leading to questions about how dedicated he is to the task at hand — a view bolstered by Trump’s head-scratching comments that he considered the House bill “mean” and that it would be “OK” if senators were unable to pass a bill.
Trump further muddied the waters in June by floating the possibility on Twitter that lawmakers could repeal the ACA now and replace it later.
A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate plan — which is being reworked by GOP leaders — projected that it would lead to 22 million fewer Americans having coverage within a decade.