President Donald Trump’s administration sought Sunday to shift the public focus back to its legislative battles after a turbulent week of West Wing infighting, trumpeting that it still intends to uproot Obamacare despite a stinging Senate floor loss.
“Don’t give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace . . .,” the president tweeted Sunday morning, “and go to 51 votes (nuke option), get Cross State Lines & more.”
Top aides echoed his ambitions on the Sunday morning talk-show circuit.
“The president will not accept those who’ve said it’s, quote, time to move on,” his senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He wants to help the millions of Americans who have suffered with no coverage.”
The so-called skinny repeal, the GOP’s latest push to fulfill the party’s seven-year promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, failed in Friday’s early morning hours. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, in dramatic fashion, became the third Republican in the chamber to vote down the option, leaving Trump’s party with 49 votes, shy of the majority required to advance the bill.
Meanwhile, in the days before and after the vote, clashes among Trump’s most senior advisers plagued his White House.
By Friday, Reince Priebus had been replaced as chief of staff by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.
Sean Spicer had resigned a week earlier as press secretary after Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci was named communications director.
Scaramucci — who had insulted Priebus as a leaker on Twitter and in an explosive, expletive-fraught New Yorker interview — tweeted Sunday only that he had a “great call” with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.
The conversation appeared to be a rebuilding of bridges between the Trump team and the RNC. Priebus and Spicer, who were national party officials before they joined the White House, had previously served as that link.
Over the weekend, the president focused his tweeting on health care and did not post criticisms of his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as he had in days prior.
On Saturday, Trump wrote, “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”
He also tweeted, “Unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, Repeal & Replace is not dead! Demand another vote before voting on any other bill!”
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney explained Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “What you’re seeing there is the president simply reflecting the mood of the people.”
Trump was referring to a special exemption for members of Congress relating to employer contributions, Mulvaney said.
“His attitude is pretty simple,” Mulvaney said. “What he’s saying is look, if Obamacare is hurting people, and it is, then why shouldn’t it hurt insurance companies and more importantly — perhaps for this discussion — members of Congress.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price insisted Trump did not ultimately want to see the current health care system “implode,” despite public comments underscoring the threat.
“I think what the president said is that it’s not the right thing to do because it hurts people,” Price told ABC News’ “This Week.”
Asked again if Trump wants to leave Obamacare to fail, Price said, “No, I think again the fact — that punctuates the concern that he has about getting this moved in the right direction.”
Asked about plans to waive the individual mandate, Price said, “All things are on the table to try to help patients.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was among three Republicans to oppose the “skinny repeal” early Friday, but told CNN of the GOP and health care reform: “Our job is not done.”
Lawmakers must work through committees and “produce a series of bills to correct these problems,” she said, adding that the most serious is the “impending collapse of the insurance markets.”
Collins said, “And I certainly hope the administration does not do anything in the meantime to hasten that collapse.”
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Priebus’ exit was in part about his apparent failure to secure legislative victories for Trump.
Lewandowski predicted that Kelly, a retired four-star general set to begin Monday at the White House, would “restore order to the staff” but advised that what “Kelly should do is not try to change Donald Trump.”