BY JORDAN FABIAN
03/07/17 the Hill
President Trump on Tuesday threw his support behind the House’s plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, launching the administration’s push to sell the proposal to skeptical lawmakers and the public.
“I’m proud to support the replacement plan released by the House of Representatives,” Trump said after meeting with almost two dozen House Republicans at the White House.
He urged lawmakers to act “quickly” on the legislation, telling them he was elected “based on the fact [of] repeal and replace ObamaCare, and many of you people are in the same boat.”
“It’s very important, so let’s get it done,” the president said.
The comments were Trump’s strongest endorsement yet of the long-awaited plan from House Republicans, which was released Monday evening.
Republican leaders will need Trump to put the full weight of his presidency behind the legislation if it is going to pass Congress.
The bill aims to replace President Obama’s signature healthcare law with a more conservative plan that centers on tax credits to help people buy insurance.
It would phase out the law’s expansion of Medicaid, while gutting the individual insurance mandate as well as subsidies that help people gain insurance coverage.
The legislation is already running into a buzzsaw of opposition from conservatives, who say the plan does not live up to the GOP’s promise of fully repealing the law and creates a new entitlement program that the country can’t afford.
A quartet of outside groups trashed the plan, including Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, which dubbed it “ObamaCare Lite.”
As Trump spoke at the White House, members of the House Freedom Caucus staged a press conference at the Capitol where they announced they would release their own “clean” repeal bill, which could make it difficult for House leaders to cobble together the votes needed to pass their own legislation.
“We are united on repeal, but we are divided on replacement,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who said he would release a companion measure in the upper chamber.
Paul indicated the best path forward “is to separate the issues” and hold separate votes on replacement options.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), whose panel helped draft the proposal, rejected that idea after meeting with Trump.
“The president made it very clear that this is his bill and there are no excuses — it’s time to act now,” Brady told reporters at the White House. “It is clear he is putting his presidential weight behind [the measure].”
Trump insisted the plan meets the principles on healthcare that he spelled out during his speech to Congress: lowering costs, expanding choices, increasing competition and ensuring “access” to care.
The administration began the day, however, by keeping the newly released plan at arm’s length.
The president praised “our wonderful new Healthcare Bill” in a Tuesday-morning tweet, while saying it would be considered for “review and negotiation.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price labeled the legislation a “work in progress,” even as he defended it during an appearance in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
“I think we’re less concerned with labels right now and more concerned with action and results,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said when asked if he would call the measure “TrumpCare.”
But as the day went on, Trump’s team ramped up their push for the plan.
Spicer used a bit of showmanship during his daily briefing with reporters, placing the nearly 1,000-page text of the Affordable Care Act next to the repeal and replacement measures, which total 123 pages combined.
“For all of the people who have concerns about this, especially on the right, look at the size. This is the Democrats, this is us … I mean, you can’t get any clearer in terms of this is government, this is not,” he said.
Trump also dispatched Vice President Pence and Price to Capitol Hill to rally support among rank-and-file members of the House and Senate.
Pence made the rounds on conservative talk radio and met behind closed doors with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the group’s former head, to try to assuage their concerns.
Pence “stressed this is the first step in the process,” a reference to Trump’s planned three-phase approach that includes regulatory changes and future legislation that would implement additional reforms, such as allowing insurance to be sold across state lines.
But it’s clear Trump and his team will need to do more to unite the party. After meeting with Pence, Jordan appeared at the press conference, where he decried the plan as “ObamaCare in another form.”
Even if the measure passes the House, Trump will also have to confront centrist Republicans in the Senate who have indicated they will not support the legislation it if keeps language that phases out the Medicaid expansion and strips funding for Planned Parenthood.
«What I don’t like is, it may not be a plan that gets a majority of votes and lets us move on. Because we can’t stay where we are with the plan we’ve got now,» Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.) said on local radio station KMBZ.
Spicer played coy about Trump’s level of personal involvement in the ObamaCare push moving forward but said the White House would keep up its sales pitch.
“This is going to be a very aggressive, laser-like focus of this administration over the next, you know, month or two, to get this thing through the House and then moved over to the Senate,” he said.