Trump warns Republican lawmakers about backlash over health care failures

© Reuters. United States President Donald Trump and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price enter the United States Capitol in Washington

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump warned Republican lawmakers on Tuesday that voters could punish them if they fail to pass a plan he favors to dismantle Obamacare, as pressure mounted on the businessman-turned-politician. so that he won the first great legislative battle of his presidency.

In one of the few visits he has made to the US Capitol since taking office, Trump told fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives that they would face “political trouble” for opposing the bill that disarms Obamacare and partially replaces it. .

“The president was really clear – he put it on the line for everyone,” Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, the bill’s main proponent, told reporters. “We made a promise. Now is the time to keep that promise … If we don’t keep our promise, it will be very difficult to manage this.”

While Republicans control both houses of Congress, party leaders face the difficult task of rallying their members behind the healthcare bill, just the first in a series of reforms Trump has promised, including revisions to the tax system. and business regulations.

US stocks fell sharply on Tuesday, led by a slide in financial stocks, as investors began to question how quickly the Trump administration can implement pro-growth policies.

Sectors that could benefit from lower tax policies and fiscal stimulus were weaker, as investors perceived those plans may take longer to implement if the Trump administration has to spend more time and energy to pass a health plan.

Some conservatives believe the health care bill does not go far enough, while moderate Republicans worry it will go too far and that millions of Americans will be hurt by the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. , the health legislation characteristic of former President Barack Obama.

Party leaders hope to move the bill to the House floor for debate on Thursday. But the House administration and leadership can afford to lose just about 20 votes from the Republican ranks or risk the bill failing, as Democrats are united against it.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare was one of Trump’s top campaign promises and has been a Republican goal since it was enacted. Trump, who took office two months ago, has yet to pass any major legislation in Congress.

Republican Rep. Walter Jones said Trump told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting that if the Republican bill is not passed, they will face “political trouble.” Jones said he thought Trump meant lawmakers could lose their seats.

While Trump predicted that Republicans could face challenges in the primaries before the 2018 midterm elections if they don’t destroy Obamacare, there is also a danger to them in doing so. Millions of voters could lose their health coverage if the Republican bill passes.

The Congressional Budget Office said last week that 14 million people would lose coverage under the House bill over the next year, though that number could change under the most current version of the legislation.

THE CRITICS REMAIN

Republican leaders reformulated the bill Monday to satisfy critics, primarily Republicans, in part by proposing major changes to tax credits and provisions to alter the publicly funded Medicaid insurance program for low-income individuals. .

Rep. Bill Flores said Trump pointed to a critic on the party’s right flank, Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, during his visit to Capitol Hill, and said that Meadows would eventually come to vote on the bill.

“Mark Meadows, he called two or three times,” Flores told reporters. “The reaction, when he said, ‘Mark Meadows, I’m coming for you,’ was pretty loud applause … I think it was ironic, half joking.”

Despite Monday’s changes, the Wall Street Journal reported that the House Freedom Caucus has enough votes to block the bill.

Trump, who has not offered his own Obamacare repeal bill, didn’t talk “much about the healthcare bill except to vote for it,” Jones said.

The Growth Club, an influential conservative lobby group, said it would spend at least $ 500,000 on ads on television and digital platforms urging members of Congress to reject the bill.

The Senate will also vote on the legislation and further changes could be made.

At a rally in Kentucky Monday night, Trump said he wanted to add a provision to the bill to lower prescription drug costs through a competitive bidding process. There was no such provision in Monday’s changes.

Republican chairmen of two key committees said Monday night that they proposed more funding for tax credits, which conservatives have opposed, that would give the Senate flexibility to help seniors pay for health insurance. Also, Obamacare taxes would be eliminated in 2017 instead of 2018.

Monday’s amendments also addressed Medicaid, which is the nation’s largest health insurance program and covers some 70 million people, most of whom are poor. The changes would allow states to implement work requirements for certain adults and decide how they will receive federal funds.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which said last week that the original bill would cause 24 million people to lose coverage over the next decade, is expected to update its analysis of the legislation to include the proposed changes.

Democrats oppose the Republicans’ plan, saying it would cut millions from health insurance and hurt older, poor and working families while giving tax cuts to the rich.