President Donald Trump called four conservative holdouts who could wreck Senate Republican leaders’ health care bill “good guys,” saying there is a “narrow path” to win their support and pass the measure.
Hours after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other GOP leaders briefed senators on then released a “discussion draft” of a bill that would repeal and replace the 2010 health law, GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah announced they could not support the bill as-is.
The conservative quartet said they oppose the initial version, which will be subject to a slew of amendments during floor proceedings, for “a variety of reasons” but declared themselves “open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor.”
During an interview on “Fox & Friends” taped Thursday at the White House and aired Friday, Trump appeared eager to avoid offending any of the holdouts. The president, as he did as a candidate, is not afraid of personally besmirching a political foe — but when it came to Paul, Johnson, Cruz and Lee, Trump had nothing but praise and understanding.
“They’re four good guys and they’re friends of mine,” the president said. “We have four very good people, and it’s not that they’re opposed.
“They’d like to get certain changes,” he said, “and we’ll see if we can take care of that.”
White House aides say Trump intends to be involved in talks with the four senators. But, to be sure, he and McConnell have some work to do before the bill can be brought to the floor — possibly as soon as the end of next week ahead of the weeklong July 4 recess.
The four holdouts in a joint statement said that the draft represented an improvement in the current system, “But it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs.”
The president acknowledged the uphill struggle ahead, saying health care is the kind of issue on which bill-writers “do something that’s good for one group, but bad for another.”
“It’s a very, very narrow path,” the president said.
In his signature fashion, he lauded his efforts thus far. He criticized his critics who question why he hasn’t pushed a bill through both chambers to accomplish his major campaign pledge of “completely” repealing and replacing Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislative achievement.
Trump shot back in the interview, saying he has accomplished more on health care in five months than Obama or Bill Clinton did at this point in their presidencies. And he again slammed the 2010 law, saying it has “failed and it’s virtually out of business.” He said insurance companies are “flocking and leaving” the markets it set up.
Trump tweeted Thursday evening that he is “very supportive” of the health care bill crafted by Senate Republican leadership, departing from an earlier more cautious approach by his White House communications team.
Trump also told told Fox that he wants House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to remain as the Democrats’ leader.
“It would be a very, very sad day for Republicans if she stepped down,” Trump said. “I’d like to keep her right where she is because our record is extraordinary against her.”
Trump tweeted something similar on Thursday, prompting Pelosi to defend herself during a briefing with reporters. She described herself as a “master legislator” and an “astute leader.”
The GOP president also, as he frequently does, labeled Democrats as “obstructionists,” and offered some free political advice. He said Tuesday’s Republican win in a hotly contested Georgia special election for a House seat shows Democrats would “do better” if they worked with him and congressional Republicans on issues like health care, taxes and infrastructure.