President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning called for letting Obamacare fail, just hours after saying Republicans should act now to repeal the law — offering seemingly mixed messages as the party tries to regroup following the collapse of the Senate health care bill on Monday night.
Trump was consistent, however, in saying that Republicans need to rally around a new health care plan to fulfill the GOP’s seven-year promise to get rid of former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
“As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning, after having wrote Monday night that “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!”
The president has been applying pressure to Republicans to move quickly on getting rid of Obamacare, so that he can move on to other priorities such as a tax reform package and an infrastructure plan. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has struggled to find a health care bill that will satisfy enough conservatives and moderates to secure the 50 votes needed for passage.
On Monday night, as Trump was hosting a handful of Republican senators at the White House, news emerged that Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas were “no” votes, joining Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in opposition, and sinking the current bill’s chances.
McConnell then announced that the Senate will vote on a so-called “clean repeal” that undoes Obamacare without immediately putting into place legislation to replace it.
On Tuesday morning, Trump spread the blame while still complimenting many members of his party. “We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!” he tweeted.
Trump also expressed his frustration with the legislative process. "With only a very small majority, the Republicans in the House & Senate need more victories next year since Dems totally obstruct, no votes!" he tweeted, adding, "The Senate must go to a 51 vote majority instead of current 60 votes. Even parts of full Repeal need 60. 8 Dems control Senate. Crazy!"
As the realities of how difficult a simultaneous repeal-and-replace could be for Republicans, Trump has at times vacillated between the two backup strategies, sometimes pushing for a clean repeal and at other times suggesting that Obamacare would collapse on its own, leaving a vacuum for lawmakers to fill. The president has previously suggested that the latter option could force Democrats to the negotiating table, creating a window for a bipartisan solution.
But Democrats have been largely unified in their opposition to any healthcare reform package that repeals Obamacare, insisting instead that the current law be amended and changed instead of thrown out entirely.
The prospect of a repeal now, replace later approach began to surface in recent weeks as prospects for a compromise in the Senate grew increasingly dim. Republicans in both the House and Senate easily passed a clean repeal bill in 2015 that was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama, and a return to a similar bill has been suggested as a way for the GOP to make good on its long-held campaign promise to do away with Obamacare.
Such an approach has been advocated by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the four lawmakers whose opposition sunk the current iteration of the GOP’s repeal and replace efforts. A clean repeal, Paul told Fox News last month, would unify the Republican Party by allowing conservative members to vote for a bill they can support. Then, Paul suggested, the GOP’s more moderate wing could work with Democrats on an Obamacare replacement package without needing conservative members’ votes.
Tuesday morning, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said he remained optimistic that he and his GOP colleagues would be able to move forward in one way or another on healthcare legislation, although he predicted that the Senate would “wind up with a skinnied down version of what we couldn’t vote on this time.” The next legislation, the Oklahoma senator forecasted, will do away with whatever Republicans can compromise on while a larger strategy is formulated.
“I’m still optimistic that we can and because we must. This is kind of a no fail moment that you have to be able to resolve all these issues,” he said.