Ryan, House leaders look to avoid a government shutdown
No promises made on health care
WASHINGTON — House leaders told GOP lawmakers Saturday that they plan to devote their energy this week to keeping the federal government open, avoiding an immediate commitment to take up health care despite pledges to do so by conservatives and the White House.
Indeed, House Speaker Paul Ryan provided few details of any type on the bill, according to three members who participated.
Mr. Ryan, R-Wis., speaking on a conference call with GOP members, offered no specific plan on how or when lawmakers might see details of a new proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, which White House officials promised would receive a vote by Wednesday.
Mr. Ryan also made clear that his top priority was to pass a stopgap spending bill to keep government open past April 28, an objective that requires Democratic support. “Wherever we land will be a product the president can and will support.” Mr. Ryan said, according to a senior GOP aide on the call.
The call comes as GOP leaders find themselves trapped between proving that they can complete basic tasks of governing such as funding the government, while also meeting the demands of President Donald Trump, who is looking for a legislative win ahead of his 100th day in office next Saturday.
Mr. Ryan’s comments suggested that he and other House Republicans have made the choice to focus on the former. He said, for instance, that the House will vote on a health care bill when Republicans are sure they have the support to pass it, according to several GOP aides on the call — suggesting that he does not believe that to be the case currently, despite renewed negotiations between House conservatives, moderates and the White House.
Mr. Ryan encouraged members to continue discussing ideas, but he did not open the call for questions, leaving members to wait until Wednesday morning before they can weigh in on spending or health care.
Mr. Trump and his top aides have been calling on Congress to take dramatic action in the coming week: vote on health care, take up tax reform and demand that Democrats agree to a stopgap spending measure that includes funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mr. Ryan attempted to calm the disorder Saturday by telling members that repealing the Affordable Care Act remains a priority but urging them to focus on the immediate task of the budget negotiations, according to the aides on the call. Mr. Ryan has vowed for weeks that there will be no government shutdown, and many Republicans and Democrats have said in recent days that negotiations are proceeding apace.
At the same time, Mr. Trump has publicly downplayed the significance of achieving a victory in the coming week. He dismissed the symbolism of the 100-day mark — despite his repeated promises on the campaign trail that he would meet many of his goals by that date.
He also began walking back the health care promise after signs emerged that GOP leaders were not prepared to take it up because of the risk that it would anger Democrats.
“We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump said on Friday. “No particular rush, but we’ll see what happens.”
Then, on Saturday, Mr. Trump added to the confusion with a promise to release details of a tax overhaul next week.
“Big TAX REFORM AND TAX REDUCTION will be announced next Wednesday,” he tweeted.
Less clear was what will come of Mr. Trump’s desire to include funding for a border wall in the stopgap measure.
On Saturday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper scheduled to run Sunday morning that Mr. Trump may demand the funding.
“I think it goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall,” Mr. Kelly said. “So I would suspect, he’ll do the right thing for sure, but I would suspect he will be insistent on the funding.”
Meanwhile, other political news made headlines Saturday.
Purple Heart awarded
Mr. Trump paid a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, awarding a Purple Heart to a soldier who was wounded last month in Afghanistan.
In his first visit as president to the military hospital in Bethesda, Md., Mr. Trump pinned the medal on Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, who lost part of his right leg. The Purple Heart recognizes service members who are wounded in combat.
“When I heard about this, I wanted to do it myself,” Mr. Trump said. “Congratulations. Tremendous.”
Surgeon general removed
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy has been removed by the Trump administration and replaced temporarily by his deputy, Rear Adm. Sylvia TrentAdams.
Dr. Murthy, a holdover from the Obama administration, was asked to resign, according to a statement released Friday night by the Department of Health and Human Services. The statement said that “after assisting in a smooth transition into the new Trump administration” Dr. Murthy “has been relieved of his duties.” Ms. Trent-Adams, a 24-year veteran of the Public Health Service Corps and a former chief nurse officer of the public health service, will fill the role for now, the statement said.
A physician, Dr. Murthy, 39, is a longtime believer that gun violence is a public health issue, a view that stalled his nomination in the Senate for more than a year.