Trump White House Sends Mixed Signals on House Health Bill

Monday night statement from Spicer was much more tepid than Trump’s tweet

President Donald Trump greets Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., after addressing a joint session of Congress last week. The president appeared to embrace Ryan's Obamacare-replacement plan in a morning tweet. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated at 1:42 p.m. | With a single word — “our” — in a single tweet, President Donald Trump appeared to embrace a House GOP-crafted bill that would replace the 2010 health care law. But it also was the latest example of the administration’s mixed signals about the House measure.

Trump, as he often does, took to his preferred method of communication, during the 7 a.m. hour Tuesday. He started by taking another swipe at his predecessor, Barack Obama, tweeting that the 44th president returned 122 “vicious” Guantanamo Bay terrorism detainees back “to the battlefield,” dubbing it “just another terrible decision.”

But Trump wasn’t finished, and made news — and likely making some top House GOP leaders breathe a bit a easier — with his next tweet. The president wrote that “our wonderful” bill that would replace Obama’s signature domestic achievement has been released for “review and negotiation.”

The White House, however, was less enthusiastic about the House measure in an official statement released shortly after the bill was unveiled Monday evening.

“Obamacare has proven to be a disaster with fewer options, inferior care, and skyrocketing costs that are crushing small business and families across America,” press secretary Sean Spicer said in the statement, oddly released to that day’s press pool rather than blasted out via the White House’s media email list.

[House GOP Obamacare Repeal Bill Courts Detractors]

“Today marks an important step toward restoring healthcare choices and affordability back to the American people,” Spicer said. “President Trump looks forward to working with both Chambers of Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

With the bill already received skeptically by Republicans in the Senate and many conservatives in the House, White House officials could be seeking to keep a little distance between the president and what is not yet a sure-to-pass measure that is riling up town hall participants and not polling that well.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price weighed in supporting the House bill, and made his way over to the Senate Tuesday for Republicans' policy lunch. In a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, Price wrote "On behalf of the Trump administration, I am writing in support of the reconciliation recommendations recently for consideration by your committees."

The differing tones marked the latest vacillation on the House bill by the administration, which at times has been eager to attach itself to what Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Co. have been working on while at other times signaling the president might release his own Affordable Care Act replacement plan.

For instance, on Monday, Spicer, during an off-camera “gaggle,” told reporters the Republican health care push has been a “joint effort.” But on Feb. 22, Trump’s top spokesman left the door open for Trump to roll out his own plan — no matter what lawmakers do. That day, Spicer even referred to “the president’s plan” when discussing how the administration intends to achieve one of its top campaign goals.

Meantime, the new president also tipped his hand about his next move on health care, later tweeting that later measures will tear down walls between which policies are available in different states.


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