WASHINGTON: U.S. President Donald Trump and key aides pressed lawmakers Sunday to not abandon an overhaul of the country’s health care law in the face of the Senate’s rejection last week of three measures to repeal or replace it.
“Don’t give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace,” Trump said in a Twitter comment.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said it was “time to move on” to other issues after three Republican senators joined all 48 Democrats early Friday to defeat a slimmed-down repeal of Obamacare, former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislative achievement, on a 51-49 vote.
Republican leaders viewed the vote as their last best effort to be able to advance the repeal effort and negotiate with the House of Representatives on how to dismantle the law, coming after two other attempts at revamping the law were defeated earlier in the week.
But Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney told CNN, “In the White House’s view, they can’t move on in the Senate.” He said that senators “need to stay, they need to work, they need to pass something.
Health care secretary Tom Price, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” show, said lawmakers need to continue to work to replace Obamacare with a law that “actually works for patients so they’re making the decisions, not Washington.”
Most American workers receive their health insurance coverage through their employers, with poorer and older Americans assisted through long-standing government plans. Aside from those plans, individuals who buy insurance to help cover their medical bills are most affected by Obamacare.
But Price contended that the law is “imploding,” and that as it currently stands, 40 percent of the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S. will have only one insurer or none next year in the individual insurance market.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the three Republicans who voted against what McConnell and other party leaders characterized as a “skinny bill” repealing only parts of Obamacare and leaving much of it intact, told NBC that new hearings on the law are needed that “would produce way better legislation … on the best path forward.”
Republican lawmakers have tried dozens of times to overturn Obamacare, enacted in 2010 by a Democratic-controlled Congress without a single Republican supporting it. Party leaders and Washington political analysts thought 2017 was their best chance to overhaul the law, with Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling both the Senate and House.
But after extensive debate throughout the first six months of the Trump presidency, Republicans are riven in deciding how to overhaul the law, with conservative lawmakers trying to upend as much of the law as possible and more moderate lawmakers looking to keep as much funding as possible for insurance coverage for poorer Americans.
The third major Senate vote last week on health care ended in dramatic fashion early Friday.
With the outcome hanging in the balance, Republican Senator John McCain, who had returned to Congress just days after being diagnosed with brain cancer, walked to the front of the Senate and turned a thumb down, giving the minority Democrats the extra vote they needed to block passage of the scaled-down repeal of Obamacare.