White House Gives Senate O’Care Repeal Bill A Less-Than-Warm Reception

Cheriss May/SIPPL Sipa USA

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday didn’t have many words of praise for Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill, referencing President Donald Trump’s comments earlier in the day that the legislation would be a “negotiation.”

Thursday was the first day the public and many lawmakers alike saw text of the bill, which could face a vote as early as June 29, after weeks of it being drafted in secret by a small group of Republican senators. During an audio-only briefing, one reporter asked Sanders whether the bill had enough “heart” and was not “mean,” referring to previous comments from Trump, given the proposed Medicaid cuts in the legislation.

“I do know that he made a statement earlier that said this is a negotiation and so he’s going to continue that process with both House and Senate members and his administration until we get the best bill that we can,” she said, referencing Trump’s on-camera comments earlier Thursday.

Sanders said twice that members of Trump’s administration were expected to be involved in discussions surrounding the proposal in coming days.

“I know he’s been involved by having members of his administration,” she said. “I think it would be hard to deny the fact that they’re an extension of the administration when you have Cabinet secretaries and senior-level staffers that are in meetings and conversations regarding the legislation.”

Sanders also was asked to address Trump’s frequent campaign trail promises not to touch Medicaid. The Senate proposal gradually phases out Medicaid expansion and imposes steeper cuts on the traditional program.

“I don’t believe that the President has specifically weighed in that it’s right to cut Medicaid,” Sanders said. “I know one of the big parts of discussion is giving states flexibility, and again, the President hasn’t weighed in specifically on any specific measure in this bill. And as he said earlier today, this is a negotiation between the House and the Senate and we’re going to play a part in that.”

Sanders also blamed Democrats for playing “partisan politics” and not contributing to Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill, despite the fact that Republican senators wrote the bill in secret without input from their Democratic colleagues.

“If Democrats really cared, they would try to be involved in the process,” Sanders said in response to a question about Democratic protests against the bill. “They said from day one that they didn’t want to be in the conversation if it had anything to do with repealing or replacing Obamacare. I think that it’s sad that they’ve chosen to play partisan politics instead of trying to have a seat at the table.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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