GOP Plans Scrambled as Trump Makes Health Care Push


President Donald Trump’s decision to revive the fight over the Affordable Care Act has stirred a political and policy debate among Republicans on how best to approach the divisive issue heading into the 2020 election.

Failing to repeal and replace the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare, is one of the biggest shortcomings of the president’s first term. It left Republicans with a broken campaign promise and a narrative they haven’t been able to shake — that they don’t support protecting those with pre-existing medical conditions from high-cost care. In some races, it cost Republican seats last fall, flipping House control to Democrats.

For Trump, the reset he wants is clear. “The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care,” he said on Capitol Hill. “You watch!”

But among Republican senators, there is reluctance to embrace Trump’s new priority.

“I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Politico.

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And in the House, it’s a mixed bag. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy initially panned Trump’s move, questioning the timing that collided with Trump’s exoneration following special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. But the GOP leader does see value in kick-starting a health care debate, said a person granted anonymity to discuss the situation. House Republicans continue to be asked about it back home and a new GOP health care bill could improve their standing with voters, the person said.

What’s unclear is whether a Trump-Care bill will emerge from the White House or Capitol Hill to replace the Affordable Care Act or if the president’s push for a policy outcome fades to little more than a topic for the campaign trail.

Trump discussed health care at length during a rally in Michigan on Thursday and again during an appearance in Florida on Friday.

“We are going to have a plan that’s so much better than Obamacare,” the president promised after touring an aging dike in South Florida.

For Trump, returning to health care shows his commitment to a 2016 campaign pledge and his desire to frame the 2020 debate on his terms.

Stung by the Democratic gains in November and sparked by another ACA legal challenge that could make its way to the Supreme Court, the president dug into the issue this past week, deciding to fight. He feels that it is an important battle to take on, said two people familiar with White House thinking who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The president has been actively engaged in conversations about health care, dialing up lawmakers in the House and Senate, and the White House is expected to lay out further details on his goals in the coming days.

“We are working very hard on that,” said Trump as he was heading out to the Michigan rally, singling out Republican senators John Barrasso, Rick Scott and Bill Cassidy among those involved.

“They are going to work together to come up with something that’s really spectacular,” the president said..

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The day after Trump dropped the new priority during a private Senate GOP lunch, a top ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., convened an evening meeting of senators to discuss options, according to those familiar with the talks.

Graham had helped spark the idea with Trump during a golf outing at Mar-a-Lago. The group he assembled back on Capitol Hill included two former governors well versed in health care policy — Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, whose Romney-care in Massachusetts was a precursor to Obamacare, and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, a former health care executive.

But McConnell has made it clear he would rather see Republicans spend their time attacking the Democratic plans to expand existing health care programs, namely the Medicare for All plans embraced by some of the Democrats running to unseat Trump. He sees it as their best option for reversing public opinion heading toward 2020 when he, too, faces re-election. McConnell derides the high cost of a government-run system as “Medicare for None.”

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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