President Trump voiced confidence Friday about a new health care overhaul coming together as early as next week, declaring in an interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum that despite Republicans’ failure to pass a replacement in his first 100 days, “ObamaCare is dead.”
The president gave himself high marks as he reflected on the unofficial end of that honeymoon period in office. While calling the ‘100 days’ measure “artificial,” he touted progress in courting China to counter the North Korean threat, confirming a Supreme Court justice and making headway on his big-ticket agenda items – like health care.
The president acknowledged in the interview with “The First 100 Days” that he’s “disappointed” with how congressional Republicans handled legislation like the ObamaCare replacement, an initial version of which was pulled from the House floor last month amid flagging support.
“I was disappointed that they didn't have more in line by the time I walked in,” Trump said.
But he said he understands the challenge for lawmakers trying to navigate what he called a “very tough system,” running up against Democratic “obstructionists.”
He noted ObamaCare itself took “17 months of brutality” to get approved and, further, suggested Congress may not have a choice about approving a replacement.
“ObamaCare is exploding. ObamaCare is dead -- essentially, ObamaCare is dead, it's not going to make it,” he said, citing states like Tennessee where insurance companies are fleeing the exchange programs set up under ObamaCare.
Since the March meltdown on the initial bill, House Republicans have come back to the table with a new version that has garnered support from the conservative Freedom Caucus. They were unable to bring it to a vote before the end of Trump’s first 100 days on Saturday, with the necessary votes still being sought, but Trump said,” I believe they're going to get it done.”
He added, “I think maybe next week sometime. They're really coming together.”
Trump said House Speaker Paul Ryan is “trying very, very hard,” and he has confidence in the various factions of the party coming together.
He also voiced confidence about moving forward with his newly unveiled blueprint for tax reform. “We're going to lower taxes,” he said, “and the biggest beneficiaries are the small companies, and the biggest of all beneficiaries are middle-income people who have really been hurt.”
He also said he wants to get GDP growth to 4 percent or higher.
As for his presidency to date, Trump said he’s “created great foundations in terms of relationships with China and with Japan and with many, many other countries” – and praised China specifically for “putting a lot of pressure on North Korea.”
Shortly after the interview, it was confirmed that North Korea test-launched another ballistic missile. Fox News is told it “broke up in flight” over the Korean Peninsula and has been deemed a failure. One White House official told Fox News they were not surprised by the test, or that it failed.
Trump said he can’t say whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will be able to “pull it off” in pressuring North Korea to change its behavior.
“We'll see what happens,” he said.
Trump pointed as well to the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as a highlight, saying, “I think he’ll be a great one.”
“I could have others and we'll see what happens, but getting Justice Gorsuch was, to me, a very big thing. And it will be a very big thing in the future,” he said.
The appointment of Gorsuch had conservatives cheering, though other recent policy stances – like backing off his criticism of NATO, declining to label China a currency manipulator and even launching missile strikes on a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack – have left observers guessing as to what the Trump doctrine truly is.
Trump told MacCallum he’s “not really an ideologue.” He described himself as “a person of common sense,” noting he used to be a Democrat.
“I get things done. I've always been a closer,” Trump said.
He griped about “archaic” rules in the Senate, like those pertaining to the filibuster. Republicans effectively eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in order to push through Gorsuch, but for now senators can still filibuster legislation – meaning they demand a 60-vote threshold.
“Maybe at some point we're going to have to take those rules on,” Trump said, before naming the filibuster as a problem.
Congressional Democrats put the blame squarely on Trump for shortcomings in the first 100 days. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recently described it as a “disastrous parade of broken promises to working people.”
Trump has not yet notched any major legislative victories since taking office – but he pushed back on such critiques in the Fox News interview.
“That's really wrong. First of all, we had 28 bills,” he said.
Trump also reacted to the developing controversy behind his fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom House lawmakers say may have violated policies against taking foreign money without permission after he left the Obama administration. Trump suggested it was the Obama administration, not his transition team, that erred in vetting him.
“I do feel badly for [Flynn]. He served the country. He was a general. But just remember, he was approved by the Obama administration at the highest level,” Trump said. “And when they say we didn’t vet, well Obama I guess didn’t vet, because he was approved at the highest level of security by the Obama administration. So when he came into our administration, for a short period of time, he came in, he was already approved by the Obama administration.”
As for his personal and family life, Trump acknowledged he’s now “in a cocoon” protected by the Secret Service at all times, lamenting that he can’t drive anymore.
But he said he plans to visit New York again, something he hasn’t done yet since taking the oath of office, and is glad his wife Melania and son Barron are joining him in Washington.
Asked whether one term might be enough for him, Trump said he’ll see.
“Maybe it takes a little bit longer, but I think we're doing tremendously well. I don't think anybody has ever done this much in a hundred days,” he said. “But I've always said it's going to be eight years, not four years.”