In yet another 180 on how the Senate should approach Obamacare repeal, President Donald Trump on Wednesday pushed for senators to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act simultaneously—and not to head home to their districts until they do.
“We’re in this room today to deliver on our promise to the American people, to repeal Obamacare and to ensure that they have the health care they need. We have no choice,” Trump told Republican senators gathered at the White House for lunch. “We have to repeal and replace Obamacare. We can repeal it, but the best is repeal and replace. And let’s get going. I intend to keep my promise and I know you will, too.”
This marks a reversal from the President’s tweets earlier this week, after Senate GOP leadership failed to lock down enought votes from its caucus to move forward with passing a comprehensive replacement bill. Trump has vacillated several times from preferring straight repeal to pushing for concurrent replacement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has ditched the Senate repeal bill and instead is pushing for a vote early next week on clean repeal with a two-year delay in implementation.
After a lengthy diatribe about the failures he sees in Obamacare, Trump pressured Senate Republicans to act quickly on repeal.
“I’ve been hear just six months, I’m ready to act. I have pen in hand, believe me. I’m sitting in that office. I have pen in hand,” he said.
He then noted that Republicans had no trouble voting to repeal Obamacare before he came into office, when they knew it would never be signed into law.
“For seven years, you had an easy route. ‘We’ll repeal, we’ll replace, and he’s never going to sign it.’ But I’m signing it. So it’s a little bit different,” Trump said. “For seven years you’ve promised the American people you would repeal Obamacare. People are hurting, inaction is not an option.”
“And frankly, I don’t think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we can give our people great health care,” he added. “Because we’re close, we’re very close.”
The Senate has already delayed its August recess by two weeks, but Trump indicated he was willing to keep them in town even longer.
Trump also took what seemed to play among the gathered senators as a lighthearted dig at Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), one of the more moderate Republican senators who was undecided on the Senate repeal bill before it failed earlier this week.
“You didn’t go out there. This was the one we were worried about. You weren’t there,” Trump said, gesturing to Heller, after referencing the opposition to the Senate bill from Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mike Lee (R-UT) that killed the bill late Monday night.
After jabbing Heller, Trump turned back to his remarks to the GOP caucus, warning them against blocking a vote on Obamacare repeal.
“Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you are fine with Obamacare,” the President said. “But being fine with Obamacare isn’t an option for another reason because it’s gone. It’s failed. It’s not going to be around.”
After issuing that threat, Trump again implored senators to stick around and work on a package to repeal and replace Obamacare. He then touted some aspects of the now-dead Senate bill, hinting that he’s interested in reviving the legislation McConnell has moved past. CNN reported Wednesday that Trump on Tuesday called Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who opposed the Senate bill, and tried to work with him on passing the Senate replacement legislation, even though McConnell already had started on a new strategy.