Senate GOP wary of revived health care battle
President Donald Trump’s decision to revive the fight over the Affordable Care Act has stirred a political and policy debate among Republicans on how best to approach the divisive issue heading into the 2020 election.
Failing to repeal and replace the ACA, also known as Obamacare, is one of the biggest shortcomings of the president’s first term. It left Republicans with a broken campaign promise, dismal approval ratings and a narrative they haven’t been able to shake — that they don’t support protecting those with preexisting medical conditions from high-cost care. In some races, it cost Republican seats last fall, flipping House control to Democrats.
For Trump, the reset he wants is clear. “The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care,” he said on Capitol Hill. “You watch!”
But among Republican senators, there’s reluctance to embrace Trump’s new priority. Usually tight-lipped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was given little advance notice of the president’s new push, spoke volumes when asked about it.
“I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing,” McConnell told Politico.
And in the House, it’s a mixed bag. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy initially panned Trump’s move, questioning the timing that collided with Trump’s bounce from the end of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. But the GOP leader does see value in kick-starting a health care debate, said a person granted anonymity to discuss the situation. House Republicans continue to be asked about it back home and a new GOP health care bill could improve their standing with voters, the person said.
What’s unclear is whether a Trump-Care bill will emerge from the White House or Capitol Hill to replace the Affordable Care Act or if the president’s push for a policy outcome fades to little more than a topic for the campaign trail.
Trump discussed health care at length during a rally in Michigan Thursday and again during an appearance in Florida on Friday.
“We are going to have a plan that’s so much better than Obamacare,” the president promised after touring an aging dike in South Florida.
The president has been actively engaged in conversations about health care, dialing up lawmakers in the House and Senate, and the White House is expected to lay out further details on his goals in the coming days.
“I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Politico last week after learning of President Donald Trump’s revived push to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.