President Trump expressed optimism Sunday about GOP congressional leaders being close to overhauling the “dead carcass” of ObamaCare, but acknowledged more deal-making is needed to get enough votes, as Republican senators appeared to put their chamber’s legislation in further doubt.
“We have a very good plan,” Trump told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” in an interview taped Friday.
The president said the GOP leaders are not “that far off” from getting an ObamaCare overhaul bill to his desk. However, he acknowledged the five Republican senators who publicly opposed the bill after it was released last week are likely seeking some changes in exchange for their support.
“They want to get some points,” Trump said. “I think they’ll get some points.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., needs support from at least 50 of his 52 senators to pass the bill, perhaps as early as this week.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, one of the five opposing GOP senators, on Sunday suggested waiting.
“I would like to delay. These bills aren’t going to fix the problem. They’re not addressing the root cause,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to rising health care costs. They’re doing the same old Washington thing, throwing more money at the problem.”
Meanwhile, Maine Sen. Susan Collins told ABC’s “This Week” that she and at least seven other GOP senators were troubled by provisions in their chamber’s bill that could possibly cut Medicaid even more than the House version.
GOP leaders argue they are not cutting Medicaid, just slowing the growth of an entitlement program that has become financially unwieldy.
Collins, who also opposes proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood, said she would await an analysis Monday from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office before taking a final position on the bill.
But she said it will be “extremely difficult” for the White House to be able to find a narrow path to attract both conservatives and moderates.
“It’s hard for me to see the bill passing this week,” Collins said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told “Fox News Sunday” that Republican leaders in Washington are “talking with every one” of the wary GOP senators.
“Conversations are ongoing,” he said. “That’s what we’re working on this week. That’s the legislative process. … It’s a thin needle to thread.”
No Senate Democrat supports the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace efforts, though many acknowledge the 2010 law is struggling under rising premium costs while offering Americans fewer premium choices.
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, another of five GOP senators opposed to the bill, has already felt the heat. A super PAC run by former campaign staffers for Trump and Vice President Pence is planning to run ads against him in Nevada and on Saturday previewed the effort on Twitter.
Trump did not indicate what types of changes may be in store in Senate negotiations, but affirmed to Fox News that he indeed described the House-passed version as “mean.”
“I want to see a bill with heart,” he said, confirming a switch from his laudatory statements about the House bill at a Rose Garden ceremony with House GOP leaders last month. “Health care’s a very complicated subject from the standpoint that you move it this way, and this group doesn’t like it.”
“And honestly, nobody can be totally happy,” Trump said.
McConnell has said he’s willing to make changes to win support. And in the week ahead, plenty of backroom bargaining is expected. He is seeking to push a final package through the Senate no later than Congress’ July 4 recess.
The Senate bill resembles the House legislation. The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the House measure predicts an additional 23 million people over the next decade would have no health care coverage, and recent polling shows only around one in four Americans views the House bill favorably.
The legislation would phase out extra federal money that more than 30 states receive for expanding Medicaid to additional low-income earners. It would also slap annual spending caps on the overall Medicaid program, which since its inception in 1965 has provided states with unlimited money to cover eligible costs.
Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., openly opposes the Senate bill because, he says, it’s “not anywhere close” to repealing ObamaCare.
He told ABC the bill offers too many tax credits that help poorer people to buy insurance, but left open the possibility of compromise.
“If we get to impasse, if we go to a bill that is more repeal and less big government programs, yes, I’ll consider partial repeal,” he said. “I’m not voting for something that looks just like ObamaCare.”
Trump said he thinks Republicans in the Senate are doing enough to push through the bill and criticized Democrats for their opposition.
“I don’t think they’re that far off. Famous last words, right? But I think they’re going to get there,” Trump said on Fox News about Republican Senate leaders. “We don’t have too much of a choice, because the alternative is the dead carcass of ObamaCare.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, said Democrats will be working hard to defeat the bill, having already made clear they would cooperate with Republicans if they agree to drop the full repeal effort and instead work to improve the 2010 law.
Still, Schumer acknowledged it was too close to call as to whether Republicans could muster enough support on their own to pass the bill.
He said they had “at best, a 50-50 chance,” he told ABC.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.