WASHINGTON (Reuters)—U.S. President Donald Trump pushed Senate Republicans on Wednesday to take another stab at repealing or overhauling Obamacare, urging them at a White House meeting to keep their campaign promises and find a new healthcare approach.
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“We’re close. We’re very close,” Trump said at the start of the lunch meeting, a day after the seven-year Republican quest to repeal and replace Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law collapsed in the Senate.
Trump scolded the senators for failing to reach agreement on a healthcare plan that can pass Congress and urged them to stay in Washington and not leave town for a planned August recess until they did.
“Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you’re fine with Obamacare,” Trump told the 49 senators who came to the White House. “For seven years you promised the American people you would repeal Obamacare. People are hurting and frankly inaction is not an option.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to go ahead with a vote early next week on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, despite indications it will fail after the defections on Tuesday of at least three Republican senators.
Moderate Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have said they oppose McConnell’s plan for a repeal that would take effect in two years, giving Congress time to develop a replacement.
With Democrats united in opposition to repeal, McConnell can only lose two votes from his 52-48 majority in the 100-seat Senate to pass healthcare legislation.
Capito, speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting on Wednesday, expressed some doubts the Senate vote on a repeal-only healthcare bill would actually occur next week. “It’s changing so quickly,” she said.
“I think we’re probably going to air what our differences are again. The president has taken a lot of time to try to call us all individually,” said Capito. “I don’t think anyone’s mind is going to get changed sitting right there, but it gives us a chance to frame it where we have our differences.”
“Honor Our Promise”
Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a top campaign promise for Trump and Republicans in Congress, who say it is a costly intrusion into the healthcare system.
But the reality has been difficult for a party divided between moderates concerned the Senate bill would eliminate insurance for millions of low-income Americans and conservatives who want to see even deeper cuts to Obamacare, which boosted the number of Americans with health insurance through mandates on individuals and employers, and income-based subsidies.