The White House fired a shot across the Senate’s bow Monday, signaling President Donald Trump feels “very strong” about the health overhaul passed by the House.
Several Senate groups, including one composed of Republicans and Democrats, are holding talks about how to alter the House measure or craft an entirely new bill. But just as senators return to Washington to get back to work, Press Secretary Sean Spicer walked a tightrope about what Trump wants them to pass.
“He feels very strong about the product that came out of the House,” Spicer told reporters during his daily press briefing.
That puts Trump at odds with most Senate Republicans, who are concerned about many of the House version’s provisions, including ones they are worried would cause millions of Americans — including swing voters — to lose their health insurance coverage.
Trump’s top spokesman acknowledged the White House expects some changes to be made as the Senate mulls things over.
“If it can be made stronger [by the Senate], then great,” Spicer said, calling the chamber an “independent body.”
“They have a right to go through their own process,” he said.
The House passed its health insurance overhaul on May 4, 217-213, largely by locking down the conservative House Freedom Caucus’ votes. Several Senate Republicans have been vocal about their lack of enthusiasm about the measure; with their 52-48 partisan margin in the chamber, there is a lot of work to do to secure majority support. All Senate Democrats are expected to oppose it, as was the case with House Democrats.
Meantime, as he did on Friday, Spicer would neither confirm nor deny whether Trump is recording conversations in the Oval Office and in other rooms in the White House.
“The president has nothing further on that,” Spicer said Monday. At another point, he said Trump has made his own position “clear” on the existence of any “tapes” of conversations he had with then-FBI Director James B. Comey.
But the president’s position is murky at best following a Friday morning tweet in which Trump, instantly summoning memories of Richard Nixon, suggested he has “tapes” — he used quotation marks — of private conversations with Comey, whom he fired last week. The president threatened to release them should Comey talk to the media.
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Reporters in the White House briefing room, however, did not view the president’s stance as clear. As Spicer ended his Monday briefing, CNN’s Jim Acosta shouted: “Where are the ‘tapes,’ Sean?!”