Still less than five days old, the House Republican bill to repeal Obamacare has an uncertain legislative path ahead. And no little part of the blame goes to President Donald Trump.
Competing interests among Republicans threaten to derail the party’s urgent mission of gutting the Affordable Care Act. After openly endorsing the bill developed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders, Trump and some of his top officials held a flurry of closed-door meetings this week with critics of the legislation to try to move lawmakers toward a consensus.
But in these private gatherings, Trump seems to be sending some conflicting messages.
After sessions with leaders of influential conservative groups and lawmakers, administration officials signaled that the President was open to scrapping Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion sooner than 2020 – the date that is expressed in the House GOP bill — a change that could scare away moderate Republicans.
The confusion over the Medicaid portion of the Obamacare bill appears to be another example of Trump’s eagerness to strike deals and negotiate – and how that tendency can sometimes complicate things for members of his own party.
House conservatives openly recognize that they are seizing on Trump’s reputation as a dealmaker to try to reshape the health care overhaul.
“I like that about this president. He understands that no product is the final product,” Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador said Friday.
Just the development that the White House is openly entertaining the change sent House GOP leaders scrambling to answer questions about whether the White House and congressional leaders see eye-to-eye on a major component of the health care bill.
“I think right now that would be very difficult to do,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters in a news conference Friday morning when asked if he supported moving up the sunset of Medicaid expansion.
Later in the day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer sided with House GOP leaders, saying: “Right now, the date that’s in the bill is what the President supports.”
One week from now could bring more tumult – the Congressional Budget office is expected to release its score of the House health care bill, which could show that millions will lose their coverage. The anticipated terrible news is poised to be one more area where Trump could veer from the party message.