(Reuters) – President Donald Trump urged Republican senators today to repeal Obamacare immediately if they cannot agree on a new healthcare plan to replace it, potentially sowing confusion as congressional leaders struggle for a consensus on healthcare legislation.
Senate Republican leaders had set today as the target for rewriting legislation that would repeal extensive parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the law dubbed Obamacare that expanded health insurance coverage to 20 million people.
But that deadline seemed unlikely, given that by Friday most senators had already left town ahead of next week’s recess without an agreement on a clear direction for the healthcare bill.
“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” Trump wrote in a Twitter post.
The current legislation would repeal major elements of Obamacare, shrink the Medicaid government healthcare program for the poor, eliminate most of Obamacare’s taxes, and set up a system of government tax credits to help individuals buy private health insurance.
Conservative and moderate Republicans have spent the past few days pushing and pulling the bill in opposite directions as majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sought common ground. Moderates want more equity for low-income Americans, while conservatives are fighting to loosen insurance regulations.
Republican efforts were also complicated yesterday by a Congressional Budget Office report that said the existing Senate proposal would cut spending on government Medicaid for the poor by 35% by 2036.
The president’s intervention may have confused some. Shortly before his January inauguration, Trump urged lawmakers to repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time.
But some senators welcomed his involvement. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who had written Trump suggesting he urge Congress to first repeal Obamacare, then replace it, tweeted, “Glad you agree, Mr. Pres.”
McConnell spokesman David Popp said Republicans will continue healthcare discussions through the recess that lasts until July 10. He did not comment on Trump’s call for a full repeal of Obamacare.
Overturning Obamacare, former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation, has been a goal of Republicans since the law’s passage in 2010, and has been a priority since Jan. 20, when the party assumed control of the White House as well as Congress. Trump campaigned on overturning a law that many Republicans view as a costly government intrusion.
The House of Representatives passed an Obamacare replacement in May.