Politics

Trump Cites Planned Parenthood to Exert Late Pressure on Conservatives

In need of perhaps 40 votes, president turns to his Twitter bully pulpit

President Donald Trump invoked one of the scourges of conservatives — Planned Parenthood — to try to sway holdouts to vote for the Republican health care bill. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump, hours from perhaps his first legislative defeat, used his favorite bully pulpit — Twitter — to pressure a conservative House group into supporting a GOP-crafted health overhaul bill.

Trump huddled at the White House on Thursday with more than 30 members of the House Freedom Caucus, trying to convince them to back the American Health Care Act. He failed to win over the entire group — and later moderates in the Tuesday Group — and eventually dispatched top aides to the Capitol with a message: It’s time to vote.

The House is expected to do that Friday afternoon, with the president’s budget director, former HFC member Mick Mulvaney, telling the chamber’s entire Republican caucus that the president is prepared to leave the Obama administration’s 2010 health law in place and move on to other agenda items.

But Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told reporters on Thursday that the president and GOP leaders might need to sway 40 members to secure the 216 votes they need to send the measure to the Senate.

Trump is finished negotiating and shaking hands on the health bill. So he did Friday morning what comes natural: He fired off some tweets aimed at a specific group, the Freedom Caucus, trying to pressure them into pushing the bill over the finish line in the House.

Trump started by noting the Republican Party has been trying for seven years to get rid of the Obama-era health law and replace it with one of its own. He pointed to what he calls its “skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare,” and cast the afternoon vote as “finally your chance for a great plan!”

Then he set his sights on the conservative faction, using one of its most-loathed organizations, Planned Parenthood, as perhaps his last bit of leverage.

“The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!” Trump tweeted.

The Freedom Caucus has in recent years flirted with forcing government shutdowns over federal funds that go to the health organization, which provides reproductive services, including abortion services.

The organization responded to the president's tweet a few hours later. 

"It’s crystal clear: they will sacrifice the health of every woman in this country to pass this disastrous bill," Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood vice president, said in a statement. 

"You cannot call yourself pro-family and slash maternity care,' Laguens said. "You cannot claim you want to invest in women’s health and block access to Planned Parenthood and essential women’s health care. Negotiating away access to cancer screenings, birth control and maternity care is not 'pro-life,' it’s cruel."

A national poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University show just 17 percent of Americans support the GOP legislation.

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