WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) quest to push through a healthcare vote before lawmakers left for the July Fourth recess came to a grinding halt today as several Republicans indicated they didn’t want to move the bill forward.
So a bus shuttled GOPs from Capitol Hill to the White House for a pitch from President Trump.
Trump’s remarks before the meeting targeted Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who said Monday that she needed more time to study the bill but didn’t want to see elements like elimination of Planned Parenthood funding.
“Obamacare is a total disaster. It’s melting down as we speak. Rates are going up. In fact, it’s very interesting, Lisa, that you’re sitting next to me because, in Alaska, it was 206 percent — a 206 percent increase in Alaska,” he said. “And I used to use Arizona as the standard; that was 116 percent. So it’s really meltdown, and we’re going to try and solve the problem.”
Trump added, “The other side is saying all sorts of things before they even knew what the bill was. This will be great if we get it done. And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like. And that’s OK, and I understand that very well.”
After he asked reporters to leave the room, one journalist asked what the president thought of the Senate bill.
“I think the Senate bill is going to be great. Thank you, everybody. Thank you,” Trump replied. “Such an understanding lot.”
After the meeting, McConnell told reporters that his party would “continue discussions until the end of the week” and then think about a vote “a couple of weeks after this week.”
He characterized the Trump get-together as good, noting members got to sound off on concerns including the future of Medicaid. “I think everybody around the table is interested in getting to yes,” McConnell declared.
“I had hoped we could have gotten to the floor this week, but we’re not quite there,” he acknowledged.
Either Republicans agree on a bill and “change the status quo,” McConnell said, “or the markets will continue to collapse.” He predicted that if the GOP moves into negotiations with the other side of the aisle, Democrats will include “none of the reforms that we want to make.”
Outside a closed policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the day’s turn of events “a metaphor for what is going on here about healthcare.”
“Democrats held pictures of working families who would be hurt by Trumpcare. Republicans were in their lunch with Steve Wynn, a multi-billionaire who would have benefited with a huge tax cut. We’re talking about average American working people, they’re talking about multi-billionaires, that’s why they’re in such trouble… because their bill is aimed at helping the very wealthy, whereas, we are trying to help American families. We know the fight is not over, that is for sure,” Schumer said.
He predicted that over the next couple of weeks McConnell “will try to use a slush fund to buy off Republicans, cut back-room deals, to try and get this thing done.”
“So we’re going to watch this bill and all the machinations behind closed doors, as they might be, like a hawk,” Schumer added. “But the truth is, as CBO made clear yesterday, the Republicans cannot excise the rotten core at the center of their healthcare bill. No matter what tweaks they may add in the next week and a half, no matter how the bill changes around the edges, it is fundamentally flawed at the center.”
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters before the White House meeting “it’s never been about the timeline, but about getting the best piece of legislation that helps the most Americans.”
The CBO estimated in its report released Monday that the Senate healthcare bill would increase the number of uninsured by 22 million in 2026, compared to 23 million in the last version of the House healthcare legislation.
The deficit would be reduced $321 billion by 2026, the CBO found, compared to $337 billion in deficit reduction in the House bill.
“The CBO is a budget office,” Sanders said. “And while it does very well at times predicting things on budget, whether it’s revenue or spending, I don’t think it does a great job.”