WASHINGTON — After declaring Tuesday that the Senate Republican healthcare bill, which couldn’t muster enough support from within the party to advance to the floor, was kaput and Obamacare should just be left to wither and die, President Trump this morning promised a better healthcare bill “by lunchtime.”
Trump, who celebrated with House Republicans in the Rose Garden after the lower chamber passed its version of repeal-and-replace, hosted dinner for several Senate Republicans at the White House on Monday evening when Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who did not attend the dinner, announced their opposition to the bill, effectively sealing its fate as Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) had already announced their “no” votes.
“I was very surprised when the two folks came out last night, because we thought they were in fairly good shape, but they did. And, you know, everybody has their own reason,” Trump told reporters at a Tuesday luncheon, adding that the solution rests with 2018: “We have to go out and we have to get more people elected that are Republican.”
As with previous stumbles of healthcare reform, Trump said he wanted to move on to tax reform and infrastructure.
“Let Obamacare fail. It will be a lot easier. And I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you, the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us, and they’re going to say, ‘How do we fix it? How do we fix it? Or, ‘How do we come up with a new plan?'” the president said.
Trump has lunch scheduled with Republican senators today to again resurrect the healthcare legislation. “They MUST keep their promise to America!” he tweeted this morning. “The Republicans never discuss how good their healthcare bill is, & it will get even better at lunchtime.The Dems scream death as OCare dies!”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed at a Tuesday media availability on Capitol Hill that in the “very near future” he’d bring to the floor an Obamacare repeal with a two-year delay on a replacement plan.
It’s unlikely to pass. The legislation McConnell is using as a model passed in December 2015 by a vote of 52-47. In the 114th Congress, the balance was 54 GOPs to 46 Dems and independents; Republicans lost two seats in this Congress. Lee also objected to the 2015 bill, arguing it didn’t go far enough, along with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who were running for president at the time. Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) objected to the bill’s defunding of Planned Parenthood.
McConnell argued that the two-year delay “would give us the opportunity to work out a complete replacement on a bipartisan basis with our Democratic friends.”
“This has been a very, very challenging experience for all of us. It’s pretty obvious that we don’t have 50 members who can agree on a replacement. A lot of people have been involved in a discussion — in very passionate discussions,” he acknowledged. “But everybody’s giving it their best shot. And, as of today, we just simply do not have 50 senators who can agree on what ought to replace the existing law. What we do have is a vote that many of us made two years ago at a time when the president of the United States would not sign the legislation that would repeal Obamacare, and with a two-year delay, give us an opportunity to build something better on a bipartisan basis. That’s what I sense most of our members would like to vote on now. And we’ll be doing that in the near future.”
Asked what his party would do if that vote fails to muster enough GOP support, McConnell replied, “I think we’ll have to see what happens. We will have demonstrated that Republicans, by themselves, are not prepared, at this particular point, to do a replacement.”
UPDATE 11 a.m. EST: McConnell said on the Senate floor this morning that the vote on repealing and replacing later will see its first procedural vote “early next week.”
“This is the same legislation that a majority of the Senate voted to send to the president in 2015. Now, we thankfully have a president in office who will sign it,” he said. “So we should send it to him.”
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