By LINDSEY MCPHERSON and REMA RAHMAN
House Republicans on Friday said they’re not planning to abandon their effort to repeal the 2010 health care law, but their current plan for how to achieve that goal is simply hoping the Senate gets its act together.
“We’ll continue to see if the Senate can realize what they did last night, wake up and change course,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters.
To those ready to declare Republicans’ repeal and replace effort dead, the California Republican offered this advice: “Never put a period where there should be a comma.”
Speaker Paul D. Ryan was also not ready to throw in the towel and pinned his repeal hopes on the Senate pulling off a feat that’s eluded them for weeks.
“I am disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up,” the Wisconsin Republican said in a statement. I encourage the Senate to continue working toward a real solution that keeps our promise.”
But Senate Republicans, after failing to pass a so-called skinny repeal amendment that would have eliminated only a handful of provisions from current law, appeared defeated and ready to give up on a partisan approach.
“Our only regret tonight is that we didn’t achieve what we had hoped to accomplish,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor speech after the skinny repeal was defeated with three Republican senators joining Democrats in opposition. “I think the American people are going to regret that we couldn’t find a better way forward. And as I said, we look forward to our colleagues on the other side suggesting what they have in mind.”
Some House Republicans said they’re not opposed to working with Democrats but that doesn’t appear realistic as the parties don’t appear to have any areas of agreement on health care.
“I don’t have a problem working with Democrats,” Rep. Tom Cole said, but added, “I haven’t seen any proposals that I find very attractive.”
The Oklahoma Republican said there is nothing House Republicans can do at this point, given that they’ve already passed a bill. He said they remain open to going to conference if the Senate can eventually move something.
“This is a problem the Senate has to solve for itself,” Cole said. “We can wish them well, we can root for them, we can yell at them, but in the end we can’t do it for them.”
Both the partisan and bipartisan approaches to health care appear unlikely to yield quick results.
Senate Republicans are stuck, and Democrats have said they would work with the GOP on a health care fix only if they took repeal of the current law off the table. With House Republicans not ready to do that, there does not appear to be a path forward.
Texas Rep. Randy Weber, noting he has never seen this much partisan division and angst in the Congress, said he doesn’t anticipate Democrats wanting to work with Republicans regardless.
“It’s to their political advantage for us to wallow around in the mess that they created, quite frankly,” the House Freedom Caucus member said.
To that point, several House Republicans during a Friday morning conference meeting voiced an interest in staying in session during August to continue working toward a solution on health care. House Freedom Caucus member Dave Brat said some appeared to be afraid to go back home and face their constituents.
“Everyone in the room was just somber on, if we go back right now, if we go back home and we haven’t got this thing done — I mean it’s going to be a tough August,” the Virginia Republican said.
Brat said it won’t do House members any good to point the blame at the Senate because constituents don’t separate the chambers in their minds. “People just say, ‘It’s you. It’s you D.C. people [who] can’t get it done.’”
Rep. Phil Roe expected said he expected such backlash from his constituents in Tennessee.
“They’re looking at me, too,” he said. “I’m not looking forward to going home.”
Roe said his plan is to explain to his constituents that the Senate still had another chance to bring up a health care bill, despite McConnell vowing to move on to other issues.
“We say a lot of things when we’re tired,” Roe said of McConnell’s remarks.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker said constituents should be upset at the Republicans for not delivering on health care but that won’t stop him from messaging on other issues.
“Yet at the same time, I’m not going to pretend it’s pie in the sky and that we’ve done our work and we’ve done our job,” the North Carolina Republican said.
In hoping that the Senate can still broker a deal, House Republicans acknowledged that they don’t have unlimited time.
“You have to work it over August,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said.
The North Carolina Republican said he was working with senators on two different approaches: a strategy advocated by GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Rob Portman focusing on subsidies, stabilization funds and relief on entitlement mandates or a plan giving states block grants that allows governors to be flexible.
“Those two trains are on parallel tracks,” Meadows said.
Despite McConnell saying he would move on from health care, Meadows said he hoped the Senate’s decision “is not fatal — it’s just a delay.”
President Donald Trump, echoing his populist 2016 campaign, mixed the politics of fear and bold promises as he returned to the campaign trail Tuesday evening in Ohio.
As he delivered parts of his remarks in Youngstown, it well could have been July 2016 with then-Republican nominee Trump at the podium. The world is more unsafe than ever. The United States has been run for too long by “stupid” politicians. People who wish to Americans harm are pouring over the southern border. Other countries are taking advantage of U.S. workers and consumers.
And there is only one person capable of change all of that: Donald J. Trump.
Trump did mention the Senate’s dramatic vote earlier in the day to move to floor debate to repeal and perhaps replace Barack Obama’s 2010 health law. He called on GOP senators to fulfill their seven-year pledge to get rid of it. But he opted against using the rally to gin up support for the Senate effort in a key swing state.
Instead, the president described a country being tormented by Obama’s law — which he said was built on “lies” — and overrun by the MS-13 gang. Both, he told the supportive audience, have required him and his administration to do a little “liberating.”
“We’re liberating our towns and we’re liberating our cities,” Trump said just after saying some parts of the country no longer seem like the United States anymore. “Can you believe we have to do that?”
As a candidate, Trump often pushed the envelope when discussing matters like undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and Central and South America. He was back at it Tuesday night.
He praised those in the arena for their collective “loyalty” to their fellow Americans, adding: “And we want people who come into our country who can love us and cherish us and be proud of us and the American flag.”
Trump told the friendly crowds that his administration is “restoring our government’s allegiance … to the people we all love. ...
He did not elaborate on just who those folks are, but the crowd applauded just the same.
Finally, finally, finally, we are putting America first,” Trump said.
Trump told the crowd he wants “great” people to immigrate to the United States, but he made clear the country’s overall demographics would be much different if all of his immigration policies, especially his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, are put in place.
“Don’t even think about it, we will build the wall,” he said to loud cheers. “Walls do work.”
And about what he and other conservatives long have said are the ills of immigration, the president said under his watch “we are not going to put ourselves through the problems we have for years.”
Trump long has criticized America’s post-9/11 wars as unwise and run poorly, saying as commander in chief he will keep the country out of foreign conflicts. Yet, he wants more defense spending and a massive military build up.
Yet, he did not get into specifics in explaining that contradiction when he told the Youngstown crowd there “rarely [has] been a time when we need the protection of our great military than right now, right here.”
He even played Realtor, imploring Youngstown area residents to put off selling their homes. Why? He promised to revive the local economy. He vowed to return residents there to jobs in shuttered factories, adding that if existing manufacturing facilities are not restored, he will “rip them down” and build new ones.”
“We have to protect our industry,” he said. “We are reclaiming our heritage as a manufacturing nation again.”
Trump did not spell out a plan for how he intends to that, or pay for it if he was suggesting federal funds would be used.
On trade, Trump again floated his idea to install a “reciprocal” tax on goods coming from other countries. His notion is to create a level playing field for U.S. companies, goods and workers. When he discussed the idea through the lens of other countries playing America for a fool, he got one of the biggest pops from the crowd.
And, in a scene that was so 2016, the crowd let out a loud U-S-A chant when Trump said if he is unable to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts, “we will terminate NAFTA and we will start all over again.”
“We will no longer be the stupid people who get taken care of so badly by our politicians because they don’t know what they’re doing,” Trump said, returning to the rhetoric of the campaign trail he seems to so relish.
Like candidate Trump, President Trump also made big promises in Ohio. That list included leading an America that will be “unstoppable” even if Republicans and Democrats cannot “come together.”
Trump said his administration is “going to start enriching our country. We’re going to start bringing back our jobs. And we will be fools no longer, folks.”
Each vague-but-big promise was right out of the 2016 campaign playbook that delivered him an improbable victory over Hillary Clinton.
And the promises kept flowing right through his walk-off line: “We’re make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again.”