President Donald Trump has urged Senate Republicans to pass a replacement plan for the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) before their August recess. The president applied pressure to GOP lawmakers to corral around their health care proposal after support for it collapsed.
On July 19, Trump held a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans at the White House to discuss their legislative agenda. Earlier that morning, the president took to social media to tout the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the GOP proposal to replace the ACA, Bloomberg reports.
“The Republicans never discuss how good their health care bill is, & it will get even better at lunchtime,” Trump tweeted out.
On July 17, GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas announced that they would not support the BCRA, joining GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Their opposition effectively sunk the bill. The GOP holds 52 seats in the Senate and would need at least 50 votes to pass the health care proposal through budget reconciliation, according to Politico.
The Senate Majority Leader, GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, announced that he would hold a vote the next week to deliberate outright repealing the ACA and giving a two year delay to formulate a replacement. On July 18, McConnell’s plan was met with a setback when three GOP senators announced that they would not repeal the ACA without an immediate replacement.
Trump asserted during his meeting with Senate Republicans that the BCRA was still a viable bill and that they should not go into recess until they passed it.
“We can repeal, but we should repeal and replace, and we shouldn’t leave town until this is complete — until this bill is on my desk and until we all go over to the Oval Office,” Trump said during the lunch. “I’ll sign it and we can all celebrate to the American people. Any senator who votes against debate is really telling America you are fine with Obamacare.”
Trump voiced his displeasure to Lee and Moran for opposing the BCRA, calling the two senators “my friends, they really were and are, they might not be very much longer.”
The president also motioned to GOP Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who had been a vocal critic of the BCRA.
“[Heller] wants to remain a senator doesn’t he?” Trump asked the room.
Following the lunch, GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told reporters that his colleagues felt “more optimism that we could vote on a repeal and replace bill, rather than just a repeal bill.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer reiterated Trump’s stance that Senate Republicans should either pass the BCRA or delay their August recess.
“[Trump] understands how important healthcare is to American families and individuals so he’s going to do everything he can to make sure that he puts a bill in place that gives the American people the access to health care and the affordability that they were promised eight years,” Spicer said during a press briefing, reports The Hill.
Trump’s stance towards healthcare fluctuated following the crumbling support for the BCRA. Initially, the president supported outright repealing the ACA without an immediate replacement. When a repeal vote looked unlikely, the president suggested that he would wait until health care markets became unstable and then return to his replacement effort.
“I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail,” Trump told Boston Globe on July 18. “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you that 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?'”
According to NPR, on June 28, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey found that only 17 percent of the BCRA while 55 percent disapproved.