Se­nate GOP wary of re­vived health care bat­tle

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY LISA MAS­CARO AND CATHER­INE LUCEY

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.

J. SCOTT AP­PLE­WHITE AP

“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.

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