WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Tuesday that Republicans should “let Obamacare fail” and sought to shift blame to the Democrats — though the conflict within his own party helped scuttle Senate efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Trump tried to distance himself from the fate of the national health care law.
“Let Obamacare fail. It will be a lot easier,” he told reporters called into an impromptu question-and-answer session. “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it, I can tell you. The Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”
The immediate repeal and replacement of former President Barack Obama’s landmark legislation was a signature pledge during Trump’s campaign. Trump acknowledged more recently that the process is complicated.
Late Monday, after two Republican senators rejected a replacement bill and sunk its chances, Trump proposed that legislators first uproot Obamacare and then work from a “clean slate.”
On Tuesday, White House aides hastily called reporters into the Roosevelt Room, where Trump pitched doing nothing and leaving Obamacare to implode.
At the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused the president of sabotaging the health insurance markets and placing “innocent Americans” at risk.
“He is actively, actively trying to undermine the health care system of this country, using millions of Americans in this country as political pawns in a cynical game,” Schumer said.
Trump lambasted Democrats — the minority party in Congress — as obstructionists while also appearing to question the loyalty of defecting GOP members.
“We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard,” he tweeted. “We will return!”
Later in the day, he sought to clarify by adding: “Well, they were not disloyal. They had their own reasons.”
He said he was surprised by the decision by Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas to serve as the third and fourth Republicans opposing the replacement legislation — leading to its collapse — and expressed disappointment in GOP lawmakers at large.
“For seven years, I’ve been hearing repeal and replace from Congress, and I’ve been hearing it loud and strong,” he said. “And then when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don’t take advantage of it.”
Trump added that he hoped to get more Republicans elected to Congress next year to secure an even larger majority and offset Democratic resistance.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said more forcefully that blame should be pinned on the Democrats.
“They’re responsible for passing Obamacare. They’re responsible for creating the mess that we’re in,” she said. “They’re responsible for being unwilling to work with Republicans in any capacity to help fix a system that they know is completely flawed.”
Though Trump and his aides blamed the opposing party, he took to Twitter five years ago to criticize Obama for what he said was doing the same.
“Obama’s complaints about Republicans stopping his agenda are BS since he had full control for two years,” Trump wrote as a private citizen in 2012. “He can never take responsibility.”
With Tom Brune