President Trump voiced optimism on Thursday that Congress will move to repeal and replace ObamaCare and prevent a government shutdown as early as next week, brushing aside doubts emanating from Capitol Hill.
“I want to get both, are you shocked to hear that,” Trump said at a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
“We're doing very well on healthcare,” he continued. “We will see what happens, but this is a great bill. There's a great plan, and this will be great healthcare. It is evolving.”
Trump did not commit to a vote on ObamaCare repeal legislation next week, but said he would like to see that happen.
Trump and congressional Republicans suffered a major defeat in March when leaders pulled legislation repealing ObamaCare from a scheduled floor vote after members of their own party said they could not support it.
A combination of conservative lawmakers who wanted to lower premium costs and centrists who worried the bill would leave millions without health insurance opposed the bill.
Since then, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Thomas MacArthur (R-N.J.), a member of the centrist Tuesday Group, have been seeking a compromise.
MacArthur produced a white paper on Thursday that would allow states to waive certain requirements for insurers, a move that could win more conservative support for the legislation.
But a number of GOP aides have suggested it might not be enough to get the bill through the House because of continued opposition from centrists.
Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.), a moderate lawmaker, said on MSNBC Thursday that he is still opposed to the bill despite the latest changes.
“It doesn’t actually address the concerns I have for the people I represent, the people of New York City,” Donovan said. “But I suspect it might get some folks on board that maybe weren’t before. But the hope is that they don’t lose other people.”
There are also serious practical obstacles to holding a floor vote on healthcare next week.
“The question is whether it can get 216 votes in the House, and the answer isn't clear at this time,” said a senior GOP aide, referring to the number of votes likely necessary to pass the legislation. “There is no legislative text and therefore no agreement to do a whip count on.”
Trump is nearing his 100th day in office, the traditional benchmark used to judge the early success of presidents, and that is adding to the pressure to notch a major legislative victory.
Repealing and replacing President Obama’s healthcare law was one of Trump’s top campaign promises and something Republican lawmakers ran on in the past four elections.
“We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare — and nobody can do that like me. We will save $'s and have much better healthcare!” Trump tweeted last February.
The White House would like to get ObamaCare repeal passed before his 100th day in office on April 29.
Trump on Thursday said media reports that the GOP had abandoned its healthcare push had been overblown.
“You know, there was never a give-up,” Trump said. “The press sort of reported there was like a give-up. There's no give-up. Remember, it took Obamacare 17 months. I have been negotiating this two months, maybe less than that because we had a 30-day period where we did other things the first 30 days, but this has been two months and it is a continuation.”
That’s a different tune than he was singing immediately after the bill was pulled.
“It’s enough already,” the president told The New York Times.
Acting to fulfill that promise next week would complicate Congress’ effort to keep the government open. Without a new funding bill, the federal government would shut down on April 28.
Trump also said he expects lawmakers will come to an agreement to keep the government open.
“I think we want to keep the government open, don't you agree?” Trump said. “So, yeah, I think we'll get both.”
A lapse in government funding would be Trump’s second major failure in Congress, especially since Republicans control both ends of Capitol Hill.
But the fate of the funding bill remains uncertain, especially if Trump and Republicans attach funding for his proposed border wall or use it to pull ObamaCare subsides known as “cost-sharing reductions” for insurance programs.
That could spark uniform opposition from Democrats and defections from some centrist Republicans.
Peter Sullivan contributed.