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EXAMINER: Trump ramps up pressure on healthcare reform holdouts

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Washington, March 8, 2017 | comments

The Washington Examiner

President Trump has begun selling the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare by bringing dozens of GOP lawmakers to the White House to both advocate for the proposal and listen to concerns.

"He said he's going to be very engaged in it," Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., who met with Trump on Tuesday, said. "He said he's going to dedicate as much time as he can to it. He said our priority to the American people is to keep our promises."

Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act was a top campaign promise, not only from Trump but nearly every single GOP lawmaker. That campaign pledge, GOP leaders say, has tied the party and Trump together in a shared responsibility to pass the proposal to replace it, or else face the wrath of voters next year.

"If we don't get this done," Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a key author of the bill, "woe be the Republican conference in the 2018 midterm elections."

Republican leaders pushed GOP rank and file at a closed door meeting Wednesday to get behind the proposal, which is under consideration in two House committees. They warned if Republicans fail to pass the healthcare proposal, it would derail the long-desired GOP goal of reforming the tax code, which House and Senate GOP leaders hope to complete by August.

Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters later that he expects Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to play pivotal roles in helping line up the 218 House votes needed to pass the measure this month.

Ryan, R-Wis., said he spoke twice to Trump on Tuesday.

"We are working hand and glove with President Trump, Vice President Pence and Secretary Price," Ryan said. "This is all hands on deck."

Trump is hoping to influence reluctant senators as well.

He'll head to Louisville on Saturday to visit the home-state constituents of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has come out in opposition of the bill. Trump this week tweeted "I feel sure that my friend @RandPaul will come along with the new and great health care program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster!"

Conservatives who oppose parts of the plan are holding out for changes. Many were encouraged by a meeting late Tuesday with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a former lawmaker who had belonged to the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

"Mick Mulvaney said whatever Congress could do to improve the bill the White House was open to it," Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said.

The proposal could be changed in committee, where amendment will be considered. It could also be altered though what is likely to be an open amendment process on the House floor.

Trump told GOP lawmakers yesterday he would support changes, "if someone can make the bill stronger," but he added, "they have to get 218 votes in the House and 51 in the Senate."

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