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President Trump aides defend GOP health care bill

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room

President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on Friday, March 10, 2017, during a meeting on healthcare. Credit: AP

Proponents of the House Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill endorsed by President Donald Trump faced questions Sunday over the cost and scope of its coverage, defending the plan amid a barrage of criticism from either side of the aisle.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is backing the American Health Care Act to uproot Obamacare, was asked on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” how many Americans would lose coverage under the new proposal.

“I can’t answer that question. It’s up to people,” Ryan said, lauding the removal of the mandate to buy insurance. “People are going to do what they want to do with their lives because we believe in individual freedom in this country.”

While Democrats’ chief complaint about the proposal embraced by the Trump administration has been an anticipated spike in costs to taxpayers and rollback in coverage, the conservative wing of the GOP has raised concerns that the new plan has as many regulations as President Barack Obama’s signature policy. Some Republicans say such intrusions into the free market won’t spark the competition necessary to make such legislation viable.

Ryan spoke about the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s so-called scoring, or projected cost and coverage estimate, expected as early as Monday.

“The one thing I’m certain will happen is CBO will say, ‘Well, gosh. Not as many people will get coverage,’ ” he said. “You know why? Because this isn’t a government mandate. … So there’s no way you can compete with on paper a government mandate with coverage.”

Trump’s highest-ranking aides sought to reassure the public.

“It’s not just about coverage. It’s about access to care. It’s about access to be able to see your doctors,” White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price vowed on ABC News’ “This Week” that Americans wouldn’t feel the impact on their pocketbooks.

“I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through, understanding that they’ll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy,” he said.

A Republican opponent of Trump and Ryan’s plan as it stands now, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, warned his colleagues in the House that the consequences of their votes would be felt at the polls in the midterm elections.

“Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote,” Cotton told ABC. “I’m afraid that if they vote for this bill, they’re going to put the House majority at risk next year.”

Another critic within the Senate GOP, Rand Paul of Kentucky, told CBS: “If we get what we have got from Ryan, Obamacare Lite, he will not have the votes.”

On the Democratic front, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California pushed back against Ryan’s response in an email noting that a Brookings Institution estimate last week showed more than 15 million people stand to lose their health insurance in a repeal and replacement of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act.

Also Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) discussed Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped his phones, telling CNN’s “State of The Union”: “I do believe that on an issue such as this, accusing a former president of the United States of doing something which is not only illegal, but just unheard of it, that requires corroboration.”

The White House has maintained that it is Congress’ role to find evidence of Trump’s yet to be substantiated claim that Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower.

McCain, one of Trump’s staunchest GOP critics, said of ties at large between the president’s inner circle and Russia: “I don’t think the American people have gotten all the answers. In fact, I think there’s a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.”

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