US President Trump has launched a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. His proposed health care bill collapsed in the Senate on Monday after it failed to garner enough Republican votes.
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the senate's GOP caucus to the White House and called out the handful lawmakers who voted against Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also know as Obamacare.
During a White House lunch, Trump said that none of the GOP senators should leave town over the summer until they pass a new health care bill, adding that any Republican who opposes debating the legislation was effectively "fine with Obamacare."
Despite the Republicans holding a 52-48 majority in the senate, Trump's proposed bill failed to gather the 50 votes needed to pass. Senators Susan Collins, of Maine, Jerry Moran, of Kansas, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul, of Kentucky all said they would vote against the bill for various reasons.
"For seven years you promised the American people you would repeal Obamacare. People are hurting and frankly inaction is not an option," Trump said. "We can repeal, but we should repeal and replace and we shouldn't leave town until this is complete."
Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate Majority Leader, had already delayed the beginning of the Senate's August recess by two weeks to give lawmakers time to find a consensus. Following Trump's intervention, McConnel echoed comments he'd made the day before, saying that he would ask the Senate to vote to repeal existing laws, while proposing an alternative at a later date.
McConnel told reporters at the White House: "I think we all agree it's better to both repeal and replace, but we could have a vote on either, and if we end up voting on repeal only, it will be fully amendable on the Senate floor and if it were to pass without any amendment at all there's a two-year delay before it kicks in... so the takeaway from what I'm telling you is no harm is done from getting on the bill."
GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had proposed repealing Obamacare first and deciding what its replacement should look like later.
However, that bill could also fall short, after two more GOP senators defected on Tuesday. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said they would oppose any repeal plan that would only take effect in two years, effectively giving Congress time to develop a replacement.
That position was also backed by Trump during the lunch. "We have no choice, we have to repeal and replace Obamacare," he said. "We can repeal it but the best is repeal and replace."
Following the bill's collapse, Trump said he would be happy to just "let Obamacare fail" and focus on other policies, namely reforming the US' tax code. However, the president's remarks on Wednesday suggested he is determined to have another stab at overhauling his predecessor's health care law.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare was one of Trump's top campaign promises, having decried it as a costly intrusion into the health care system.
The Trump administration's proposed alternative, however, has exposed the divisions within the GOP, with moderate senators fearing that the bill would take away coverage for millions of low-income Americans. The more conservative wing of the party wants to see even deeper cuts to the Affordable Care Act.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan federal financial analysis agency, had yet to provide the figures for the cost and the number of potentially uninsured Americans created by the now-dead bill. However, its review of an earlier draft found that the proposed changes would have caused 24 million Americans to become uninsured by 2026, with millions of low-earners priced out of being able to afford insurance.
dm/rt (AP, Reuters, AFP)