Trump jumps in to help propel new healthcare Bill

US President Donald Trump is plunging personally into his first major legislative fight, getting behind a Bill that has been denounced by many healthcare providers and scorned by his base on the right.
US President Donald Trump is plunging personally into his first major legislative fight, getting behind a Bill that has been denounced by many healthcare providers and scorned by his base on the right.PHOTO: AFP

US leader throws weight behind Republicans' heavily criticised proposal to replace Obama plan

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump, after a halting start, is now marshalling the full power of his office to win over hold-out conservatives and waffling senators to support the House Republicans' proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

There are East Room meetings, evening dinners and sumptuous lunches - even a White House bowling soiree. Mr Trump is deploying the salesman tactics he sharpened over several decades in New York real estate. His pitch: He is fully behind the Bill to scotch former president Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, but he is open to negotiations on the details.

In so doing, Mr Trump is plunging personally into his first major legislative fight, getting behind a Bill that has been denounced by many healthcare providers and scorned by his base on the right. If it fails, Mr Trump will find it difficult not to shoulder some of the blame.

"He understands the power he has as President to drive the legislative process," said Republican congressman Patrick McHenry, a top House of Representatives vote counter who was part of a meeting with Mr Trump in the East Room on Tuesday.

The Bill represents an opening for an administration that has been mired in infighting and controversy over an early executive action on immigration. It will also allow Mr Trump to make good on a pledge he made in rally after rally last year to replace Mr Obama's law, which he called a "disaster".

And it has momentum. On Thursday, two key House committees approved the legislation, which would undo the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a more modest system of tax credits and a rollback of Mr Obama's Medicaid expansion.

The Bill represents an opening for an administration that has been mired in infighting and controversy over an early executive action on immigration.

Party-line votes by the House Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means committees sent the measure to the House Budget Committee for consideration next week before a final House vote that Speaker Paul Ryan plans for later this month.

Amid a barrage of attacks from Democrats and criticism from healthcare industry groups, Mr Trump sought to calm fears about the process on Thursday.

"Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great," he tweeted at midday. "We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!"

Several hours earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had said that lawmakers needed to see the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of how the Bill will affect the federal deficit.

"I think we need to know that," he said, adding that the CBO report could be released by Monday.

Mr McConnell was the first in a growing chorus of high-ranking Senate Republicans to question the wisdom of moving forward on the health Bill without an official budget tally.

The risks for Mr Trump are high.

Already, debate on the measure is taking far longer than he had hoped, delaying his push to cut taxes, rewrite the tax code and secure a sizeable new infrastructure programme. If his healthcare push fails, the reverberations will affect those other measures.

NY TIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Trump jumps in to help propel new healthcare Bill'. Print Edition | Subscribe