WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Sunday attacked conservative lawmakers for the failure of the Republican bill to replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law, as aides signaled a greater willingness to work with moderate Democrats on upcoming legislative battles from the budget and tax cuts to health care.
On Twitter, Trump complained: “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”
The Freedom Caucus is a hard-right group of more than 30 GOP House members who were largely responsible for blocking the bill to undo the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” The bill was pulled from the House floor Friday in a humiliating political defeat for the president, having lacked support from either the conservative Republicans or Democrats.
In additional fallout from Friday’s jarring setback, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said he was leaving the caucus. Poe was one of the few group members to declare support for the legislation.
“We must come together to find solutions to move this country forward,” Poe said Sunday in a written statement. “Saying no is easy, leading is hard but that is what we were elected to do.”
Trump initially focused his blame on Democrats for the failure and predicted a dire future for the current law.
But on Sunday, his aides made clear that Trump would be seeking support from moderate Democrats, leaving open the possibility he could still revisit health care legislation. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus scolded conservative Republicans, explaining that Trump had felt “disappointed” about a “number of people he thought were loyal to him that weren’t.”
“It’s time for the party to start governing,” Priebus said. “I think it’s time for our folks to come together, and I also think it’s time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats stood ready to work with Trump to fix Obamacare if he is willing to drop attempts to repeal the law and not undermine it. He warned that Trump is destined to “lose again” on other parts of his agenda if he remains beholden to conservative Republicans.
The White House faces a tall task in gaining support for its congressional agenda. Trump, for instance, now lacks the savings anticipated from the health care bill to help pay for tax cuts, while expected legislation to invest $1 trillion in roads and infrastructure and to cut down on illegal immigration will likely need support from Democrats.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the Freedom Caucus, acknowledged he was doing a lot of “self-critiquing” after the health care defeat. He insisted the GOP overhaul effort was not over and that he regretted not spending more time with moderate Republicans and Democrats “to find some consensus.”
“It’s incumbent upon those two groups, the conservatives and the moderates, to come together, hopefully in the coming days, to find consensus, to present something to the president that certainly not only gets him 216 votes, but hopefully 235 votes,” he said.
In a shift, Meadows also said he was open to a tax plan that is not fully “offset” so it is revenue neutral.