President Donald Trump on Wednesday said Republicans in the Senate should not recess until they have passed healthcare legislation that stalled again earlier this week, urging them to move a bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“Frankly I don’t think we should leave town until this is complete, until this bill is on my desk,” Trump said at a White House lunch that featured almost all of the GOP conference.
Trump’s comments represented Trump’s third shift in position on healthcare legislation in recent days. On Monday, after two GOP senators said they would vote against a key procedural vote to bring the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) to the floor, effectively killing the bill, Trump said that Republicans should immediately repeal Obamacare.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted and told reporters he wanted to keep Obamacare in place but let it fail. This, the president said, would bring Democrats to the table on a possible fix.
But on Wednesday, Trump appeared to try to revive the BCRA despite widespread discontent with the bill among GOP members.
Trump also joked with one Republican senator about his opposition to the bill. Sitting next to Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, Trump made a quip questioning whether Heller wanted to remain a senator. Heller came out against the BCRA early on and is up for reelection in 2018 in Nevada, a state where a majority voted for Hillary Clinton.
“He wants to remain senator, doesn’t he?” Trump said.
This isn’t the first time Trump and Heller have had a run in. A pro-Trump group ran ads against Heller after he came out against the initial version of the BCRA, prompting Heller to joke about the ads during a luncheon after the BCRA’s first false start in June.
In addition to going after Heller, Trump said he was “surprised” that Sens. Jerry Moran and Mike Lee came out against the bill on Monday, effectively killing it.
“The other night I was very surprised when I heard a couple of my friends, my friends they really were, and are — they might not be for much longer but that’s OK,” Trump said, before moving onto Heller.
Trump also attacked Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“You see Chuck Schumer up there and before he’s even seen teh plan, before most fo yuo had even seen the plan, he’s talking about people dying. He’s saying ‘Death, death death!’,” Trump said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already delayed the typically month-long recess from Washington by two weeks. He has said he plans to bring a straight-repeal bill to the floor early next week.
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