Donald Trump took to Twitter, advising congressional Republicans to “be careful” as they embark upon a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. | AP Photo
As Obama and Pence huddle with their parties on the Hill, the president-elect tweets that GOP must keep heat on Democratic ‘clowns.’
As President Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Mike Pence descend upon Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to discuss strategy on Obamacare, Donald Trump warned fellow Republicans to not fall into the trap of taking ownership of the health law’s shortcomings.
The president-elect took to Twitter, advising congressional Republicans to “be careful” as they embark upon a plan to repeal and replace Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
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“Republicans must be careful in that the Dems own the failed ObamaCare disaster, with its poor coverage and massive premium increases……like the 116% hike in Arizona,” Trump tweeted, adding, “Also, deductibles are so high that it is practically useless. Don’t let the Schumer clowns out of this web…massive increases of ObamaCare will take place this year and Dems are to blame for the mess. It will fall of its own weight – be careful!”
The direct message to Republicans — the second of its kind in two days — helped set the tone as Obama and Pence huddle with their respective parties about the law’s near-certain demise.
It’s the first formal engagement by the new Congress in the seven-year political war over Obamacare, and for the first time — with Trump preparing to enter the White House — Republicans hold a distinct upper hand.
“We will repeal Obamacare, there’s no two ways about it,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Trump’s liaison to the House, adding, “It’s going to come very quickly.”
Democrats recognize that there’s little they can do to prevent the repeal, a top priority of Republicans in Congress even as they’ve struggled to develop a long-promised plan to replace the embattled health care law. But they’re preparing for a messaging battle to make Republicans feel the squeeze as they upend programs that have helped cover millions of previously uninsured Americans.
They’re also vowing to muck-up the repeal process in any way they can, vowing to make life difficult for Republicans trying to come up with a replacement plan to swap out with Obamacare.
Fine-tuning these plots will drive Wednesday’s meeting with Obama, who will try to give Democrats hope that they can protect Obamacare. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer debuted a new Democratic rallying cry this week, appropriating Trump’s slogan to declare that by repealing the law, Republicans are going to “make America sick again.” And Democrats, he said, won’t be there to fix any problems Republicans create.
“If they think we’re going to come in and save their butts when they screw it up? No,” he told POLITICO in a Playbook interview that published on Wednesday.
Republicans meanwhile are walking a tightrope. Though they’re planning the immediate repeal of Obamacare, they’re still debating how long to preserve many of the law’s core elements to ensure that Americans covered by the law don’t face disruptions in coverage. Trump has yet to weigh in with a timeline, but Collins said he expected the president-elect to do so after he’s sworn in.
Collins also downplayed the significance of Pence’s meeting as a moment to steer the House’s Obamacare replacement strategy.
“This is not going to be a negotiation between Mike Pence and Paul Ryan,” he said.
Rather, he said, it will be a product of committee hearings and bipartisan talks among lawmakers.
“I think as this becomes a collaborative, interactive discussion, I think what comes forward will be almost unanimous,” he said, “because we’re going to thrash it out, kind of behind closed doors, in committee hearings.
“We can’t let perfection be the enemy of good,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday begins debate on a fiscal budget that will unlock a fast-tracking procedure known as reconciliation—a tool that Republicans will use to jam repeal though on a party-line vote.
Another topic that could rear its head in conference: Trump’s unwelcome tweet Tuesday knocking House Republican efforts to try to gut the oversight watchdog. The press and the public slammed the proposed house rule that essentially would declaw the Office of Congressional Ethics—then Trump put a nail in that coffee when he tweeted that lawmakers should have had their priorities focused elsewhere.
Republicans complained in an emergency conference session Tuesday that Trump shouldn’t have gotten involved in an internal House dispute — though many believed the pitch was diametrically opposed to Trump’s “drain the swamp mantra.”
About two hours after, House Republicans agreed to withdraw the OCE reforms.
“We have no jurisdiction over the ethics of the executive branch, and the executive has no jurisdiction over [the House],” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told reporters Tuesday, saying he was “a little surprised” Trump would weigh in on a matter of the House’s “internal deliberations.”