President Donald Trump on Wednesday insisted that Republicans are close to passing a bill to repeal Obamacare and dubiously predicted that Congress would manage to pull off the feat early next year.
“We have the votes for health care. We have one senator that’s in the hospital. He can’t vote because he’s in the hospital,” Trump told reporters outside the White House, echoing a claim he made earlier in the morning on Twitter. The President was likely referring to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), who is not in Washington, D.C. due to a health issue.
The President’s claim seems far-fetched, given how much the Senate has struggled on the issue this year and the fact that the chamber’s ability to pass a repeal bill with a simple majority expires at the end of this week.
Trump told reporters that Congress would tackle Obamacare repeal again in “January or February,” later amending that to January, February or March—a remarkably fast timeline given Congress’ plan to tackle tax reform next. It’s also not clear how Congress would pass the bill in early 2018 without the authority to do so through the reconciliation process.
The President complained that Republicans fell just short of earning enough support to repeal Obamacare this week, and alluded to Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) opposition to the latest health care bill and frustration with the partisan process.
“I feel we have the votes. I’m almost certain we have the votes. But with one man in the hospital, we cannot display that we have them,” Trump said Wednesday. “Plus, some people want to go through a process just to make themselves feel better. That’s okay.”
He that Republicans would be able to go through a process between now and early next year that would assuage concerns about the rushed process from some senators, like McCain and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
“What we’re going to do is, we will do the block grants, we will do the health care. We will get a longer process going for the couple of people that did want to see more process even though they’re a yes vote,” Trump said.
In the meantime Trump said he would try to negotiate with Democrats on health care and said he may sign executive orders on the subject.
“I am considering an executive order on associations and that will take care of a tremendous number of people with regard to health care,” he said. “And I’ll probably be signing a very major executive order where people can go out, cross state lines, do lots of things and buy their own health care, and that will be probably signed next week. It’s being finished now. It’s going to cover a lot of territory and a lot of people.”