Trump Pushes GOP on Health Bill 09/23 11:51
President Donald Trump on Saturday tried to sway two Republican holdouts on
the party's last-ditch health care hope while clawing at his nemesis who again
has brought the "Obamacare" repeal-and-replace effort to the brink of failure.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unwilling to concede defeat on a bedrock GOP promise,
President Donald Trump on Saturday tried to sway two Republican holdouts on the
party's last-ditch health care hope while clawing at his nemesis who again has
brought the "Obamacare" repeal-and-replace effort to the brink of failure.
Trump appealed to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a possible "no" vote, to swing around
for the sake of Alaskans up in arms over high insurance costs, and suggested
that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul might reverse his stated opposition "for the good
of the Party!"
Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose announcement Friday that he would not vote
for the proposal seemingly scuttled efforts to revive the repeal, came under
renewed criticism from the White House. It was the second time in three months
that McCain, at 81 in the twilight of a remarkable career and battling brain
cancer, had emerged as the destroyer of his party's signature and yearslong
pledge to voters on health care.
"He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!" Trump tweeted.
With Senate Democrats unanimously opposed, two is the exact number of GOP
votes that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., can afford to lose. McCain
and Paul are in the "no" column, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is leaning
against the bill and Murkowksi is also a possible "no."
But Trump isn't letting go, as seen by his series of tweets while he spends
the weekend at his New Jersey golf club.
Aiming at Murkowski, Trump cited increases in premiums and other costs in
Alaska under the Affordable Care Act. "Deductibles high, people angry! Lisa M
comes through," he wrote.
Trump, without offering support for his assertion about former presidential
rival Paul, said: "I know Rand Paul and I think he may find a way to get there
for the good of the Party!"
But there was no doubt where Trump stood on McCain.
"John McCain never had any intention of voting for this Bill," Trump said.
The measure was co-written by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain's
closest Senate ally, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
"McCain let his best friend L.G. down!" Trump said, adding that the health
bill was "great for Arizona."
McCain, in explaining that he could not "in good conscience" vote for the
legislation, said both parties "could do better working together" but hadn't
"really tried." He also he could not support the measure "without knowing how
much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people
will be helped or hurt by it."
His opposition all but ensured a major setback for Trump and McConnell, and
appeared likely to deepen rifts between congressional Republicans and a
president who has begun making deals with Democrats out of frustration with his
own party's failure to turn proposals into laws.
During the election campaign Trump had pledged to quickly kill the
Affordable Care Act --- "It will be easy," he contended --- and he has publicly
chided McConnell for not winning passage before now.
Up until McCain's announcement, McConnell allies were optimistic McCain's
relationship with Graham might make the difference. GOP leaders hoped to bring
the legislation to the full Senate this coming week. They face a Sept. 30
deadline, at which point special rules that prevent a Democratic filibuster
Democrats hailed McCain's announcement and pledged to commit to the
bipartisan process he sought. GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington have been working on a package of
limited legislative fixes to the health law's marketplaces.
"John McCain shows the same courage in Congress that he showed when he was a
naval aviator," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "I have
assured Sen. McCain that as soon as repeal is off the table, we Democrats are
intent on resuming the bipartisan process."
Trump charged that Schumer "sold John McCain a bill of goods. Sad."
The Graham-Cassidy bill would repeal major pillars of the health law and
replace them with block grants to states to design their own programs.
"Large Block Grants to States is a good thing to do. Better control &
management," Trump tweeted.
But major medical groups said millions of people would lose insurance
coverage and protections. A bipartisan group of governors announced their
The House passed its own repeal bill back in May, prompting Trump to convene
a Rose Garden celebration, which soon began to look premature.
After the Senate failed in several attempts in July, the legislation looked
dead. But Cassidy kept at it with his state-focused approach, and the effort
caught new life in recent weeks as the deadline neared. Trump pushed hard,
hungry for a win.
The bill would get rid of unpopular mandates for people to carry insurance
or face penalties. It would repeal the financing for Obama's health insurance
expansion and create a big pot of money states could tap to set up their own
programs, with less federal oversight. It would limit spending for Medicaid,
the federal-state program that now covers more than 70 million low-income
people. Insurance rules that protect people with pre-existing conditions could
be loosened through state waivers.
Over time, the legislation would significantly reduce federal health care
dollars now flowing to the states. But McConnell had little margin for error in
a Senate split 52-48 between Republicans and Democrats, and could lose only two
votes, counting on Pence to break the tie.