The White House is trying this weekend to rally support for the ObamaCare replacement plan — with Vice President Pence in Kentucky and President Trump using the bully pulpit and old-reliable Twitter.
“The ObamaCare nightmare is about to end,” Pence said at a business routable in Kentucky, with protesters outside the venue and as the GOP replacement bill moves through the House and heads toward the Senate. “Here are the heartbreaking facts: Today, Americans are paying $3,000 more a year on average for health insurance since the day ObamaCare was signed into law.”
Kentucky has emerged as a battleground in the early efforts by Trump and GOP House leadership to pass the American Health Care Act, with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul helping lead conservative opposition to the bill, introduced Monday.
“Kentucky is a textbook example of ObamaCare’s failures,” said Pence, citing premium increases in the state as high as 27 percent and Louisville-based Humana Inc. planning to exit Kentucky’s ObamaCare exchange next year.
Trump and practically every elected Washington Republican campaigned on a promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Former President Obama’s signature health care law has insured roughly 11 million Americans since its 2010 inception but some Americans have since struggled with rising premium costs and dwindling policy options.
“We are making great progress with healthcare,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.
He also used the presidential weekly address this weekend to make his case.
“Seven years ago this month, ObamaCare was signed into law over the profound objections of the American people,” said Trump, who plans to rally support next week at a stop in Nashville, Tennessee. “House Republicans have put forward a plan that gets rid of this terrible law and replaces it with reforms that empower states and consumers.”
To be sure, Trump, known for his real estate and international deal-making before becoming president, realizes that getting the replacement bill to his desk for signature will require backing on several fronts — including support from the most conservative members of his party.
Since the bill was released earlier this week, Trump has hosted key GOP committee leaders at the White House and had dinner Wednesday with conservative firebrand Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Trump has also invited members of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative wing of the Republican House, to the White House for bowling and pizza.
While House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., should get the minimum 218 House votes to move the bill to the Senate, Trump and fellow Republican leaders in Congress have essential no chance of garnering any Democratic support.
“Tonight, Republicans revealed a Make America Sick Again bill,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said after the GOP House leaders released their replacement bill.
Opposition by elected Democrats has been outmatch only perhaps by voters, who have pounded congressional Republicans at recent town hall events over concerns about losing health insurance as a result of repeal and replace efforts.
After releasing their long-sought bill, House Republicans this week swiftly pushed it through two key committees.
They hope to pass the legislation in the full House during the week of March 20, then send it to the Senate where it would need the support of 51 of 52 Senate Republicans to reach Trump’s desk for signature.
Meanwhile, Democrats are accusing Republicans of trying to rush the bill through Congress before the public can figure out what it does. And they say the GOP should at least wait until the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office releases its report, which could come by Monday.
The GOP legislation would eliminate the current mandate that nearly all people in the United States carry insurance or face fines.
And it would use tax credits to allow consumers to buy health coverage, expand health savings accounts, phase out an expansion of Medicaid and cap that program for the future, end some requirements for health plans under Obama’s law and scrap a number of taxes.
Conservatives argue that the legislation doesn’t do enough to uproot ObamaCare. And some Republicans accuse Ryan and fellow House GOP leaders of moving too quickly.
Democrats paid a price for their lengthy process in passing the bill. As the months dragged on, public opposition grew. Over Congress’ August recess in 2009, that rage overflowed at similar town halls, which helped spawn the Tea Party movement that gave the GOP control of the House the next year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.