Trump wields stick over healthcare Bill

Mr Trump at the signing of an appropriations Bill for the Nasa space agency in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday. He is trying to get all the backing he can for a sweeping Bill to overhaul the US healthcare system. The President can lose
Mr Trump at the signing of an appropriations Bill for the Nasa space agency in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday. He is trying to get all the backing he can for a sweeping Bill to overhaul the US healthcare system. The President can lose only 21 members of his own party if the Bill is to succeed, as no Democrats have pledged to support the package.PHOTO: NYTIMES

He threatens to go after Republicans who don't help him replace Obamacare

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump has turned up the pressure on recalcitrant Republicans to support a sweeping Bill to overhaul the United States healthcare system, threatening wavering lawmakers in his party with political payback if they fail to get behind a measure that has become an early test of his negotiating power.

In a series of meetings and phone calls at the White House and on Capitol Hill, Mr Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and Republican congressional leaders haggled with holdouts over details as they struggled to assemble a majority to support a Bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

The legislation is scheduled for a floor vote in the House today. But at a private meeting with House Republicans at the Capitol, the President warned that many of those present would lose their seats in next year's mid-term congressional elections if the effort failed.

"I'm going to come after you," Mr Trump told North Carolina Republican Representative Mark Meadows, a prime holdout and the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, a hotbed of concern about the legislation, according to several people who described his comments on condition of anonymity.

Mr Trump told Republicans at the meeting that after voting repeatedly to repeal the healthcare law and campaigning last year on doing so, they had an obligation to back the Bill and would lose their majority if they "blow it", attendees said.

MATTER OF LOYALTY

We're going to... remember those who stood by us, and who stood by the word that they gave to their voters.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER, on Mr Trump's political threats.

Despite the day's feverish efforts - a combination of cajoling, browbeating and horse-trading that recalled Democrats' efforts to pass the law in 2010 - White House and congressional officials conceded on Tuesday that they still lacked the votes to pass the Bill.

As many as three dozen Republicans remain opposed or unpersuaded, according to one aide with knowledge of the process, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mr Trump can lose only 21 members of his own party if the Bill is to succeed, as no Democrats have pledged to support the package.

One top Republican, not authorised to speak about the whipping process, said the leadership remained confident it will collect enough support but is weighing scheduling options.

"The White House is engaged, the leadership is engaged, everyone is working together," the Republican said.

"But this is the House GOP, and you can't assume that it's going to go perfect. You leave options," meaning a vote tomorrow or even the weekend, the Republican added.

A second Republican, also not authorised to discuss internal deliberations, said others in the leadership orbit were eager to bring the Bill to the floor even if the count is narrow because they would like opponents to take ownership of their position and the consequences of what it would mean for the President.

The use of political threat was a classic tactic for Mr Trump, who keeps a running mental tally of his backers and detractors, and frequently boasts of his efforts to exact revenge on those who have crossed him.

"We're going to... remember those who stood by us, and who stood by the word that they gave to their voters," said Mr Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2017, with the headline 'Trump wields stick over healthcare Bill'. Print Edition | Subscribe