Policy

Trump Slowly Wades Back Into Choppy Health Care Waters

White House signals desire for more methodical try at repleacing Obama's 2010 law

Ready to try again? Rep. Greg Walden and other lawmakers might get another shot at reworking the health insurance system. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The White House is inching ever-so-slightly toward another try at a health care overhaul package -- and Trump administration officials signaled on Wednesday they want a more methodical process this time.

In the hours and days after President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., decided to pull a GOP-crafted measure aimed at repealing and replacing the Obama administration’s 2010 health law, the chief executive and his top aides signaled the effort was dead.

The message from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as recently as Monday was clear: We’re moving on to tax reform, getting Judge Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court and avoiding a government shutdown when federal funding expires late next month.

But when House Republicans got back to work in earnest, rank-and-file members decided there was too much politically at stake to drop the matter, and they began talking among themselves about how to get the needed votes.

The White House on Tuesday played coy, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying little more than that Trump administration officials were having some talks with individuals from Capitol Hill about next steps and ideas about a new health overhaul bill, but had no plans to launch a renewed effort toward a new bill.

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But nearly 24 hours later, after a New York Times report that Trump had deployed his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to talk to members about how he might get the win on health care he craves after promising to repeal and replace the 2010 law during the campaign, Spicer signaled that the administration is dipping its metaphorical toe a back into the health care overhaul.

“The president, from the early days of his campaign, talked about repealing and replacing,” Spicer said. “It's a commitment that he made. I think he'd like to get it done.”

But Trump’s chief spokesman stressed to reporters that Trump is not going to pursue a deal with Republican -- and perhaps some Democratic -- lawmakers for the sake of it.

“But he also understands, and I want to be completely consistent with two things. One is, he understands that in order to get to 216, we have to make sure that it does what he says it was going to do: that it achieves those goals of lowering costs and creating more options.

“And so we're not going to create a deal for the sake of creating a deal that ends up being not in the best interests of the American people,” Spicer said. “You've got to know when to walk away from a deal that is going to end up bad. And he wants to have a good deal.”

Trump is newly willing to “engage” members of both parties on their ideas about an overhaul package that will “grow that vote," he said, adding some Democrats have reached out to White House officials with their insights.

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“We've seen members of both sides of the aisle engage with the White House on ways that are potentially ways to get there,” he said. “It's an ongoing discussion.”

But after Trump demanded the House vote on the bill just 17 days into the overhaul process, the White House now seems set on a slower approach.

“We're not trying to jam that down anyone's throat right now,” Spicer told reporters. “Over the course of 17 months, Obamacare, you know, failed and started [again] multiple times. Went off on multiple different tracks, including single payer, until … they jammed it through.

“And so we're 20 days, 21 days into this process, 22 probably today. So, we'll see,” he said. “But I think the idea that the president has put out there is that if people want to float ideas and suggestions on how we can grow this vote and get to a majority, he'll entertain them.”

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