Despite his support for the failed House health-care bill, President Trump knew when to walk away from a “bad deal,” according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer.
At the daily briefing Monday, Spicer was asked if the president could still work with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which led the opposition to the American Health Care Act.
On Sunday, Trump pinned blame on the Freedom Caucus for the bill’s failure, tweeting: “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”
But Spicer said Monday that working with the caucus in the future depends on the legislation, then offered new insight into the president’s thinking about the bill House Speaker Paul Ryan promoted as a repeal of Obamacare.
“The president also recognizes that when there’s not a deal to be made, when to walk away,” Spicer told reporters. “It’s not just about making deals. It’s knowing when to walk away from deals and knowing [that] when there’s a bad deal, that’s the only solution.”
While Trump praised the bill after it was withdrawn Friday, though acknowledging it could be improved, Spicer seemed to suggest passing it would not be consistent with the president’s “vision.”
“I think the president understood that where we were, that while you can get a deal at the time, that sometimes a bad deal is worse than getting a deal,” Spicer said. “And I think he smartly recognized that what was on the table was not going to be keeping with the vision that he had, and so he decided that this was not the time and that a deal was not at hand.”
Asked if repealing Obamacare was dead, Spicer said he believed the failure of President Obama’s signature legislation will bring some Democrats to the negotiating table, and the administration is willing to consider working with them.
“It is an abysmal failure,” he said of Obamacare. “If they [Democrats] want to come back to the table and recognize how we can do it in a more responsible way, we are willing to have that discussion. We have to figure out how we get to 216, 218 that day. That doesn’t mean we need the entire Democratic Caucus, and I think there may be a few of them who are willing to do that. Based on the calls that have come in, I think there might be some room to have a conversation. Let’s see how that evolves.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the end of health care.”
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” criticized Republicans who opposed the Ryan bill of allowing the “perfect” to be the enemy of the “good.”
Reacting to Priebus, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the bill “wasn’t even good.”
“When no one likes the legislation, you have to do it different,” he said.
Jordan said the Ryan bill would not bring down premiums and had “a host of problems.”
“And frankly, the key promise we made the American people in the 2010, 2014, and 2016 election was we would repeal Obamacare,” he said. “This legislation didn’t do that. And that was the fundamental flaw in this entire process. So let’s get back to work and let’s do what we said we would do.”
He added: “Remember, the lesson here is don’t try to pass a bill that only 17 percent of the country approves of. That’s a problem.”
Priebus told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace the president’s tweet about the Freedom Caucus “is 100 percent correct.”
“At the end of the day, I believe that it’s time for the party to start governing. And I think that’s important,” he said.
Some White House staffers blamed Trump’s politically moderate son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, Politico reported.
Suspicious that Kushner was working to defeat the repeal effort, their concerns only increased when he invited Obamacare architect Ezekiel Emanuel to address staffers. Then, with the legislation in jeopardy, Kushner left town for a two-day ski trip to Aspen.
GOP: ‘Are we capable of governing?’
A new Gallup Poll released Monday after the bill’s failure showed President Trump’s job approval rating fell five points to 36 percent for the three-day period of March 24-26.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the Trump White House wondered how a Republican Congress and president could not come together.
“We’re asking the same questions. We really are,” Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”Is the Republican Party capable of governing?”
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who supported Trump’s 2016 campaign, criticized opponents of the bill in his party.
“I can tell you right now there’s bitterness within our conference, it’s going to take time to heal that,” Collins said.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who supported the bill, announced his resignation Sunday from the Freedom Caucus.
“Saying no is easy, leading is hard but that is what we were elected to do,” said Poe in a statement.
The House Freedom Caucus, chaired by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., criticized the Ryan bill as “Obamacare Lite” because it was not a full repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act. They contended it would continue to drive up costs by maintaining a penalty for not purchasing health care, a tax-credit “entitlement,” regulations that dampen competition and other restrictive measures. Joined by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; and others in the Senate, they argued for a “clean repeal” through the reissuing of a 2015 bill that passed Congress but was vetoed by President Obama.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, tweeted support for 2015 bill after the failure of the House leadership’s bill: “Now then bring to the House floor HR 175, the FULL ObamaCare repeal. Rip it ALL out by the roots!”
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., filed a one-sentence bill Friday he’s calling the “Obamacare Repeal Act.”
It reads: “Effective as of Dec. 31, 2017, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such Act are restored or revived as if such Act had not been enacted,”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., charged Monday on MSNBC’s “Live with Stephanie Ruhle” that the House Freedom Caucus is torpedoing the GOP’s ability to govern. He urged the party to work with Democrats to get things done on Capitol Hill.
Kinzinger said the Freedom Caucus members typically are “never, ever, ever going to get to ‘yes.’”
However, Reihan Salam, a columnist for the left-leaning news site Slate, wrote that despite the criticism, the House Freedom Caucus “has actually acted quite reasonably.”
He said that when Meadows told reporters Thursday night that he was “desperately trying to get to ‘yes,'” he was “telling the truth.”
Salam said Freedom Caucus members were willing to allow the bill’s new refundable tax credits, which they described as a “a new entitlement program,” in exchange for lifting regulations that curb competition.
“Ryan has steadfastly refused to budge on making big regulatory changes, on the grounds that you couldn’t get that done under the rules of budget reconciliation,” Salam wrote.
“Well, lo and behold, the Senate parliamentarian has made it clear that there really is scope to make sweeping regulatory changes under reconciliation rules. That news infuriated HFC members, and it sent Ryan scrambling to see if he could push through some last-minute changes to his bill, which got uglier and uglier by the hour.”
Meadows received a hero’s welcome upon his return to his western North Carolina district, Politico reported
“This is the face of leadership!” declared a flier posted by the local tea party urging supporters to turn out for a rally celebrating Meadows.
“What’s happening now is no longer the Trump plan. It is the Obama plan,” Ralph Slaughter, the GOP chairman in North Carolina’s Jackson County, said of House Republican leaders’ three-step proposal to replace Obamacare. “They thought perhaps that they could just force it through, and I really think to a certain point President Trump was sold a bill of goods that it would carry. That all they would have to do is present it.”
Columnist and former Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan wrote that a case can be made that the Freedom Caucus just pulled the Republican Party “back off the ledge, before it jumped to its death.”
He argued that with the support of only 17 percent of Americans, the bill probably would have faced defeat in the Senate. Had it survived there, to be signed by President Trump, it would have meant 14 million Americans losing their health insurance in 2018.
Foremost among the losers, he said would have been “white working-class folks who delivered the Rust Belt states to President Trump.”
Politically, the biggest losers, Buchanan said, are Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans “who, having voted 50 times over seven years to repeal Obamacare, we learned, had no consensus plan ready to replace it.”
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