President Trump on Thursday confidently predicted smooth sailing for the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare despite continuing opposition from conservatives, medical professionals and Democrats.
“Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!” he tweeted.
To ramp up public support, the president scheduled a full-blown campaign rally at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Tennessee for Wednesday.
And Vice President Mike Pence was preparing to make a Saturday appearance in Louisville, Ky., home to Sen. Rand Paul, one of the most outspoken Republican critics of the GOP health-care legislation.
Two House panels — the Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee — approved the bill Thursday on straight party-line votes after marathon hearings that lasted as long as 27 hours.
Among other things, the new legislation would remove the tax penalties imposed under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act on those who were not insured.
But while Trump painted a rosy picture of the bill’s progress, even some of his staunch supporters trashed it, with one GOP senator predicting in a Trump-like flurry of early-morning tweets on Thursday that it would never pass the Senate without big changes.
“House health-care bill can’t pass Senate w/o major changes. To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, don’t get it fast,” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton wrote in the first tweet.
“GOP shouldn’t act like Dems did in O’care. No excuse to release bill Mon night, start voting Wed. With no budget estimate!” read a second.
“What matters in long run is better, more affordable health care for Americans, NOT House leaders’ arbitrary legislative calendar,” Cotton concluded in a third tweet.
Later, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tump would be willing to speak with Cotton and other critics, suggesting the president could be open to changes.
Many conservative groups as well as major medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association, are on record opposing the bill.
And Democrats protested that Republicans were acting in the dead of night to rip insurance coverage from poor Americans.
At a White House meeting Wednesday, Trump reportedly scolded the leaders of conservative groups that have criticized the bill as “ObamaCare lite.”
“This is going to be great. You’re going to make it even greater. I’m going to work hard to get it done,” Trump told them, according to CNN, which cited sources in attendance.
He also warned the groups — including the Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots — that they “are helping the other side” with their attacks.
Trump, joined by advisers Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, said he would pressure lawmakers by campaigning for the bill in their districts.
“Trump said he will have football-stadium events in states where he won by 10-12 points and he is going to dare [lawmakers] to vote against him,” an attendee said, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a wonky PowerPoint presentation to sell the bill at a press conference.
“We as Republicans have been waiting seven years to do this. This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing ObamaCare. The time is here, the time is now. This is the moment, and this is the closest this will ever happen,” Ryan said.
He said conservatives and others calling for big changes need to realize that amending the bill — which they want to pass using a process called budget reconciliation — could doom it.
Under reconciliation, all changes must have a direct impact on the federal budget, which largely limits what can be changed in the plan.
But if it reaches the Senate under reconciliation, it cannot be filibustered, according to Senate rules, which means it could pass with just 51 votes instead of 60.
“One conservative group is saying you better put shopping [for health insurance] across state lines in this bill or we’ll not support it. Guess what? If we did that, we wouldn’t be able to pass this bill. It would be filibustered in the Senate and wouldn’t come up for a vote,” Ryan said.
Leaders are aiming for passage by the full House in the next couple of weeks.
Additional reporting by Mark Moore and AP