Not dead yet

Trump ex­horts Se­nate to pass Oba­macare re­peal

The Western Star - - 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.

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

Trump’s com­ments 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.

Still, it seems im­prob­a­ble that the White House lunch will 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 party. Two dif­fer­ent ver­sions of re­peal-and-re­place leg­is­la­tion fell short of votes be­fore com­ing to the floor, push­ing McCon­nell to an­nounce Mon­day night that he would re­treat to a re­peal-only bill that had passed Congress when Obama was in of­fice.

Emerg­ing from the White House lunch, McCon­nell told re­porters that the Se­nate would vote next week to move ahead on the straight-up re­peal, and “I have ev­ery ex­pec­ta­tion that we will be able to get on the bill.”

That re­mains to be seen. Al­most as soon as that plan was un­veiled it too was all but killed off as three GOP sen­a­tors, one more than McCon­nell can af­ford to lose in the nar­rowly di­vided Se­nate, an­nounced op­po­si­tion.

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters fur­ther, in his com­ments at the White House lunch Trump was back to sup­port­ing re­peal and re­place leg­is­la­tion, not just re­peal.

“We have no choice, we have to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare,” Trump said. “We can re­peal it but the best is re­peal and re­place.”

Not­with­stand­ing the mixed mes­sages, what was clear Wednes­day was that af­ter promis­ing for seven years to re­peal and re­place “Oba­macare” — and us­ing the is­sue to ob­tain ma­jori­ties in Congress and the White House — many Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tors are re­luc­tant to aban­don the ef­fort, even as some ac­knowl­edge it would take a dra­matic in­ter­ven­tion to change the out­come.

“Know any­body who can work mir­a­cles?” said GOP Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas ahead of the White House lunch.

AP PHOTO

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

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