WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is trying to make the case to the American people that replacing the Affordable Care Act “is an urgent necessity” while also working to keep the Republican health plan on track amid conservatives’ objections.
After making a pitch for the plan in his weekly address on Friday, Trump congratulated Republican lawmakers for securing approval in two House committees Thursday for the first phase of the Republican’s American Health Care Act.
“This time we’re going to get it done. We’re working together, we have some great results,” Trump said as he met with the committee chairmen at a White House meeting. “We have tremendous spirit and I think it’s something that’s just going to happen very shortly.”
To underscore his support for the plan, Trump is sending Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday to discuss jobs and repealing Obamacare with small-business owners in Louisville, Ky., the home state of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a critic.
On Friday, Trump also celebrated a better than expected monthly employment report, showing an increase of 235,000 new jobs and a drop in unemployment to 4.7 percent — though he repeatedly denounced that employment survey as “phony” last year as a presidential candidate.
Asked about Trump’s reversal of opinion on the data, White House spokesman Sean Spicer at the daily briefing smiled and quipped, “I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly: ‘They may have been phony in the past but they are very real now.’”
Spicer also had to clarify the impression that Trump left in recent meetings with conservative GOP lawmakers and advocacy groups to win their support that he is open to negotiating aspects of the health care legislation bill.
One priority conservative House Republicans are pushing for is a clause ending the expansion of Medicaid, which added an estimated 11 million low-income people to its rolls, in 2018, two years before the bill’s current date of 2020.
“I think we can go much further than what leadership wants us to do. I think we can actually have real reforms in this bill,” said Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) on CNN Friday.
But Spicer said, “Right now, the date that’s in the bill is what the president supports. He is willing to listen to individuals on different aspects of the bill that . . . might achieve the goals that he set out. But it’s not a question of negotiation.”
In his weekly address, Trump castigated the ACA, or Obamacare, as “hundreds of pages of broken promises” and said that law is “collapsing around us.”
Trump said the Republican plan being spearheaded by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) must be passed to “rescue” health care. Under Ryan’s plan, Trump said, “You will have the choice and the freedom to make the decisions that are right for your family.”
In the Democratic response, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said, “They’re calling it the American Health Care Act: the AHCA. But they should call it the BBBA: the Big Breaks for Billionaires Act. That’s because you pay more, you get less, while billionaires get all the breaks.”
Ryan is pushing his House Republican caucus to get behind the health care legislation, telling them that “it really comes down to a binary choice,” which he said is to vote for it or to vote against it.
That measure — which strips away the individual mandate to buy insurance, rescinds billions of dollars in taxes to pay for expanded care, and curbs Medicaid — is set for a working session of the House Budget Committee on Wednesday.
The bill that emerges from that committee is expected to move to the House floor for debate and a vote the following week, according to a Budget Committee aide.