hosts lunch with Republican senators, Obamacare repeal on menu
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[June 14, 2017] By
Susan Cornwell and Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President
Donald Trump on Tuesday urged Senate Republicans to pass a "generous"
replacement program for Obamacare, as the Senate struggled to produce an
alternative to the healthcare law.
Capitol Hill sources who asked not to be named said Trump described
the version of the legislation that passed the House last month as
"mean." That House bill was widely criticized for letting states
seek waivers from insurance protections for people with pre-existing
Trump discussed the healthcare bill at a White House lunch he hosted
for Republican senators in a bid to help the lawmakers find common
ground to move forward with healthcare reform legislation this
The White House declined to comment on private conversations between
Trump and lawmakers.
During the portion of the lunch open to reporters, Trump told the
lawmakers their healthcare bill would need to be "generous" and
"That may be adding additional money into it," he said, without
offering details on how much money might be needed or how it might
Trump stepped up pressure for the repeal with a tweet Tuesday
morning declaring that the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare,
"is in a death spiral." He cited the government's announcement
Monday that some 2 million people who signed up for Obamacare have
dropped out this year.
Although Trump's Republican Party has a majority in both houses of
Congress, Trump blamed "obstructionist" Democrats for the lack of
progress in repealing President Barack Obama's signature domestic
Senator John Thune, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, who attended
the lunch meeting, said Trump was open to suggestions that some
federal cost-sharing payments to health insurers under Obamacare
continue in the near term but that the president did not make any
definite pronouncements on that issue.
Those payments help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses for
low-income Americans. Trump has said he might consider withholding
them but insurers say that would wreak havoc in the markets.
Thune also said Trump did not give any deadlines to the senators on
passing the bill.
"I hope that we can stay on schedule to have floor action before the
Fourth of July break," Thune said.
The House of Representatives narrowly approved its version of repeal
last month but Senate Republicans have been unable to coalesce
around their own version of a bill, with moderates and conservatives
pushing in different directions in meetings behind closed doors.
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The senators Trump invited to lunch included Republicans from both
ideological camps. Moderates Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were
on the list as well as conservatives Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said senators are closer
to bringing up a proposal and other Republicans have predicted for
some time that a bill would be ready for a vote before the August
Senate aides said the Senate bill was not expected to touch
insurance protections that are included in Obamacare for people with
pre-existing medical conditions, after the controversy over the
House bill that would let states seek waivers from those
In states with such waivers, people with pre-existing conditions
could still get coverage but they would not be shielded against
potentially higher costs.
Another senator at the lunch, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin
Hatch, said after the meeting that there still was a lot of work to
do before legislation can be unveiled.
"The total bill hasn't been resolved," he said.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Bill Trott and
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