Trump: House Health Bill Win 'Has Brought Party Together'
“We won,” President Trump said Thursday in the Rose Garden.
Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act remains unfinished business for the Republican Party after seven years, but nudging a patchwork alternative through the House with no Democratic support after initial failure in March put a big smile on the president’s face.
Surrounded by about 100 lawmakers, members of his Cabinet, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and top White House lieutenants, the president basked in a legislative victory that had eluded him during his first 100 days in office.
Trump acknowledged the tougher road ahead – the Senate – but the celebratory scene, cascade of anti-Obamacare speeches, and praise heaped on the president from GOP lawmakers who are not afraid to buck his ideas created a picture of unity, discipline and determination, which the Republican Party said it desperately needed to convey.
“This is a great plan,” the president said, referring to the much-negotiated, much-amended American Health Care Act. “I actually think it will get even better. And this is, make no mistake, this is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare, make no mistake about it. Make no mistake.”
Beyond the gates of the White House, sounds of shouted protests reached inside the garden, although the words were garbled on a breezy afternoon. If Trump could hear the bullhorns across Pennsylvania Avenue, he did not let on.
Protests from Democrats on social media, in news releases and in hastily launched video ads focused on Americans’ fears that Washington was surgically altering existing law in ways that would leave them more vulnerable than when they started on the health insurance roller coaster.
“House Republicans just voted to take health care away from 24 million Americans and put millions of people with pre-existing conditions in life-threatening danger,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez warned while asking progressives for new donations.
Perez was referring to a Congressional Budget Office projection in March about the number of people who would lose health coverage if the first version of the GOP measure had become law. The rebooted version, adopted by a vote of 217-213 on Thursday, never went through committee and did not pause for the CBO to offer its 10-year projections about how it would work in comparison to current law.
The projected repercussions, some of which the White House maintains are impossible to anticipate or estimate, are of keen interest to Senate Republicans, who will carefully weigh whether the House-passed measure has a future in the upper chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his colleagues plan to take their time while examining CBO’s assessment when it is complete.
Although numerous House Republican leaders offered spirited assurances Thursday that their accomplishment was not “about politics,” the future of a health care bill in the Senate will encompass the 2018 elections and the political ambitions of conservatives who must run and win in statewide rather than district-level races. Because the White House and Republicans are not working to attract Democratic support for an Obamacare replacement, any measure in the Senate must earn the support of at least 50 of 52 members to avert a filibuster by moving through budget reconciliation. (In the House, 20 Republicans voted against the American Health Care Act.)
The president and his team are already engaged with Senate GOP leaders to plot what comes next, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short told RealClearPolitics. “We’ve been talking to the Senate already. I don’t want to give you a timeline, like when are you going to be on the floor, but we’ve been talking to them. The president’s already spoken to the leader,” he said, referring to McConnell.
The White House is expecting the House approach to be reflected in any Senate measure, but differences would be enough to require a conference committee. In other words, Obamacare remains the law of the land for some time to come. And the political pushback is yet to come. Many progressives, determined to protect President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, said they were waiting to see if House Republicans could pass a bill before mobilizing in earnest.
Well-funded and sustained lobbying and opposition to block a GOP health care measure from becoming law is under way.
But inside the West Wing, the most troublesome players – Republicans all – appeared to be tamed, and stood in a crowded semi-circle around a man many never thought would be president. The health care bill Trump helped them push across the finish line was written by House GOP members, not by the White House.
Trump, said Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, “wouldn’t give up.”
A win was a win, and for the business-executive-turned-president, a Rose Garden celebration was nearly as satisfying as signing executive orders and seating an associate justice on the Supreme Court for a lifetime. Achievements fulfill promises; actions are measured; one victory can springboard into something even bigger, Trump said.
“This has really brought the Republican Party together,” he enthused. “As much as we've come up with a really incredible health care plan, this has brought the Republican Party together. We're going to get this finished, and then we're going – as you know, we put our tax plan in. It's a massive tax cut. The biggest tax cut in the history of our country. I used to say, the biggest since Ronald Reagan. Now, it's bigger than that.”