WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Sunday aimed blame for Friday’s failure to advance an Obamacare-repeal bill at the far right faction of the Republican party, shifting his target from the Democrats, whom he blamed Friday after the stinging defeat.
With a Sunday morning tweet, Trump attacked the Freedom Caucus and two influential policy groups that had resisted the American Health Care Act he had embraced. Members of the House of Representatives’ conservative caucus argued in part that insurance coverage mandates in the bill made it too similar to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which they sought to uproot.
“Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!” Trump tweeted.
The president targeted the caucus as the White House and Republican lawmakers were still reeling after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pulling the bill from an anticipated vote.
On Friday, though, the president’s blame fell solely to the Democrats.
“We were very close to doing it, but when you get no votes from the other side, meaning the Democrats, it’s really a difficult situation,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office at that time.
The repeal of Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment had been a key Trump campaign promise and a way, he had vowed, to show the deal-making prowess and business acumen needed to shake up Washington.
“There’s probably plenty of blame to go around,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think what happened is that Washington won. I think the one thing we learned this week is that Washington was a lot more broken than President Trump thought that it was.”
Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) did not criticize Trump on Sunday, telling ABC’s “This Week” that “no one has been more self-critiquing than me.”
Meadows insisted that the efforts aimed at replacing Obamacare through a consensus between conservative and moderate Republicans aren’t dead.
“This is not the end of the debate,” he said, even as he noted the president was setting his sights on crafting tax-cutting legislation. “I know that he’s moving on.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a Freedom Caucus founding member, told “Fox News Sunday” that the conservatives in the House may have helped Americans in the long run.
“Maybe the fact that we opposed it [the health care act], we did the country a favor because this bill didn’t repeal Obamacare,” he said. “Instead of doing the blame game, let’s get to work.”
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on “Fox News Sunday” referenced Trump’s Oval Office comments. The president had predicted Obamacare would “explode” and said Democrats should then come to him to collaborate.
“He said, ‘You know, perhaps it’s time for us to start talking to some moderate Democrats as well, and come up with a bipartisan solution,’ ” Priebus said. “I do think that there are Republicans this weekend . . . that are scrambling.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told ABC that if the president hopes to succeed with tax reform, he must overcome a “basic lack of competence. You cannot run the presidency like you run a real estate deal.”
Trump on Saturday appeared to also pin the legislative defeat on Ryan after he urged his Twitter followers to watch a Fox News show during which host Jeanine Pirro called for the speaker to relinquish his post.
Priebus said that Trump’s tweet and Pirro’s monologue were “coincidental.” Meadows said there were “no conversations” about replacing the speaker.
Ryan spokesman Doug Andres said the speaker talked Sunday with Trump, who was “clear his tweet had nothing to do with the speaker.” Andres said both were eager to get back to their agenda.
Trump held unspecified meetings Sunday for the second day in a row at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia.