U.S. President Donald Trump is blaming opposition Democrats as “obstructionists” for refusing to help Republicans in dismantling the national health care reforms championed by former President Barack Obama.
Trump, in a pair of Twitter comments Monday as Senate Republicans look this week to make good on a seven-year promise to repeal the law known as Obamacare, said Democratic lawmakers “have no policies or ideas. All they do is delay and complain. They own ObamaCare!”
He said, “Republican Senators are working very hard to get there, with no help from the Democrats. Not easy! Perhaps just let OCare crash & burn!”
Trump offered his comments on the messy legislative dispute over the law as Republican senators supporting a replacement measure wait for an official assessment of the plan from the independent Congressional Budget Office. The CBO report is likely to project the measure’s cost for the government and predict how many people would lose insurance if the plan goes into effect.
The CBO earlier estimated 23 million people would lose their insurance over the coming decade under a health care bill the House of Representatives narrowly approved last month, which Senate Republicans have now revamped.
‘Very narrow path’
Trump said Sunday he and Senate Republicans are facing “a very narrow path” in trying to approve the latest repeal and replace plan.
It would end the requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine, phase out subsidies to help lower-income people buy insurance, curb taxes on the wealthy and cut hundreds of billions of dollars in funding over the next several years for the government’s health care program for the poor and disabled.
Despite the united opposition of Senate Democrats, Trump told Fox News on Sunday, “I think we’re going to get there.”
He noted the complicated road in the coming days to pick a plan “that everybody is going to like,” but argued the alternative to changing U.S. healthcare policies is the collapse of the current law.
Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate, and all of the Democrats in the chamber are expected to vote against the Republican proposal. That leaves Republicans with little room to pass the legislation if three or more of their members decide not to support it.
On Monday, Senate Republicans offered some small changes to their proposal, including a penalty for people whose insurance coverage lapses, an effort to persuade consumers to buy insurance before they have a health care emergency and need help with paying their medical bills.
Already five Republican Senators have said they cannot support the bill as it stands now, with four of them saying it does not go far enough to end provisions of the current law and one saying cuts in health care payments for the poor go too far. Other Republican lawmakers have also expressed reservations.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump talked with some of the opponents over the weekend, in hopes of getting them to vote in favor of the legislation. Spicer said Trump is “pleased with the developments” in changes Senate Republicans are making to the House passed version, a plan Trump has labeled as “mean.”
Trump chided Democrats for their opposition to the Republican effort, saying on Twitter, “Democrats slam GOP healthcare proposal as Obamacare premiums & deductibles increase by over 100%. Remember keep your doctor, keep your plan?”
Under Obamacare, about 20 million more people have been enrolled in insurance plans, many of them under the government’s Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, which Republicans now want to cut by more than $800 billion over the coming years. Trump said during his campaign for president he would not curtail Medicaid.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the Republican plan as “devastating for the middle class” and said he thinks Republicans have at best even odds of being able to pass the bill. He added that Democrats are willing to work with Republicans to make reforms to the current health care system, but not repeal Obamacare.
“They want to try it themselves first,” he told ABC’s This Week. “If they fail, hopefully they’ll come sit down. They’ll stop sabotaging Obamacare, and sit down with us, and we’ll make Obamacare better.”
Ever since Obamacare was enacted in 2010 without any Republican votes, House Republicans voted dozens of times to repeal it, a futile effort as long as Obama was president. But repeal of the law could be possible with Republicans in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
If the Senate approves its repeal version, either the House would have to pass the same bill or reconcile its version with the Senate’s before Trump could sign it into law.