Trump lashes John McCain over opposition to new Republican health care push

Donald Trump has blamed Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for McCain's opposition.

Donald Trump has blamed Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for McCain’s opposition.

Photo: Bloomberg

Trump defended the measure’s approach, which envisions the federal government sending grants to states to administer their own health care systems and allowing them vast discretion over how to use the money. It would allow them to seek federal waivers to let insurers charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing medical conditions or to omit certain benefits that they are now required to provide, such as maternity care or mental health care.

“Better control & management,” Trump wrote. “Great for Arizona.”

“McCain let his best friend L.G. down!” the President added, referring to McCain’s close relationship with Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Trump’s latest weekend Twitter fusillade came the morning after McCain surprised the President and his top aides by abruptly announcing that he could not “in good conscience” support the health care proposal by Graham and Senator Bill Cassidy, saying it was a partisan plan whose costs and impacts on the health care of millions of Americans were unknown.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama on Friday.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama on Friday.

Photo: Brynn Anderson

The move by McCain, whose “no” vote against an earlier iteration of a health care repeal bill killed that effort in July, dealt yet another setback to Trump’s effort to fulfil his promise to do away with Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Senator Rand Paul, had already come out in opposition to his party’s last-ditch health care effort, and Senate leaders can afford to lose only three of their members in a chamber that is divided 52-48.

On Saturday, Trump appeared to be nurturing hopes that the legislative effort could be kept alive. He expressed hope that Paul would rethink his opposition to the Graham-Cassidy measure, without explaining why the Kentucky senator, who had complained that the bill left the Affordable Care Act’s essential structure intact, might do so.

John McCain jokes around as he and Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson speak to reporters about the opposition to the Republican party's first attempt to replace and repeal ObamaCare.

John McCain jokes around as he and Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson speak to reporters about the opposition to the Republican party’s first attempt to replace and repeal ObamaCare.

Photo: AP

“I know Rand Paul and I think he may find a way to get there for the good of the Party!” Trump wrote.

He also indicated that Senator Lisa Murkowski, who had wavered publicly about the measure, would support it.

“Alaska had a 200% plus increase in premiums under ObamaCare, worst in the country. Deductibles high, people angry! Lisa M comes through,” Trump wrote.

Murkowski was one of three Republican senators who voted against the repeal proposal in July, and she has come under an intense spotlight yet again as Trump and Republican leaders push for passage of the Graham-Cassidy bill. But while Trump hopes she will support the bill, Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, an independent, opposes it and has said he has communicated his concerns to Murkowski.

White House officials were working to determine whether there was a way to salvage the bill and win over critics and fence-sitters, but a spokeswoman offered no immediate explanation for Trump’s tweet that appeared to suggest Murkowski was already a convert.

A spokeswoman for Murkowski, Karina Petersen, said Saturday: “Senator Murkowski has seen the president’s tweet but is still analysing the bill and waiting to hear from CBO to determine its potential impacts for Alaskans. She understands that premiums have risen, the toll that is taking on many Alaskans, and the need for health care reform. But she also wants to understand what this proposal means for the people she represents before deciding how she will vote on it.”

Before McCain’s announcement, Republican leaders had planned to move forward with a vote in the coming week, although the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had yet to complete a full analysis of the Graham-Cassidy legislation. The budget office is expected to provide a preliminary fiscal assessment early in the week, but it indicated that it would not be able to complete an analysis of the bill’s effects on health insurance coverage or premiums by Sept. 30.

Trump seemed to have given up all hope of persuading McCain to back the measure, returning to Twitter on Saturday evening, 12 hours after he initially ripped into the Arizona senator, to hammer him again and invoke the premium increases that people in his state have experienced under the current health law.

“Democrats are laughingly saying that McCain had a ‘moment of courage,'” Trump wrote. “Tell that to the people of Arizona who were deceived. 116% increase!”

New York Times

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