President Trump raised expectations for his domestic policy agenda Tuesday as he met with congressional Republican leaders -- predicting the “biggest tax cut in U.S. history” and Senate passage of a health care bill by summer’s end.
The president hosted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other top Capitol Hill Republicans as he tries to fire up his stalled agenda, increasingly sidelined by Russia and other controversies.
“What a great team this is,” Trump said ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s wonderful to be here with the Republican leadership.”
Under pressure to notch at least one big legislative victory in his first year, Trump met twice Tuesday with congressional Republicans, including a working dinner with a “handful” of GOP members.
Trump over the course of his roughly five months in office has expressed frustration with Congress -- particularly over Ryan’s original and unsuccessful attempt to pass an ObamaCare overhaul bill and more recently over the Senate’s “antiquated” and painstakingly slow process.
However, both sides now need each other perhaps more than ever.
Trump’s domestic agenda has been slowed by congressional investigations into whether his presidential campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 elections.
And essentially every Hill Republican was elected on a promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
The president lashed into ObamaCare on Tuesday by citing a recent report that shows premiums have increased in Alaska by as much at 203 percent and pointing out that another major insurance company just left the health care exchange in Ohio.
“If Congress doesn't act to save Americans from this Democrat-inflicted catastrophe, next year is going to get worse,” said Trump, who praised Ryan for getting the GOP-led House last month to pass its ObamaCare overhaul package.
“It was a long and difficult negotiation, but it gives a great concept to Mitch,” the president said. “The Senate, I’m sure, will follow soon, get a bill across the finish line this summer.”
Ahead of the meetings Tuesday, Senate Republicans were already hastening efforts on ObamaCare, after being urged last week by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to vote this summer to increase the federal debt ceiling.
Sources tell Fox News the GOP-led Senate now wants to vote on the ObamaCare replacement as soon as possible so members can devote July to the debt-ceiling debate and September to tax reform, with the intent of providing tax breaks to voters.
Senate Republican leaders emerged Monday from their regular weekly meeting with the surprise announcement that they have a draft bill on overhauling ObamaCare and that a vote could happen as early as July 4.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, was among the more cautious about the timeline, saying a vote would come “sometime in July.”
Trump said Tuesday that the tax cut would be “the biggest in our country’s history if we pass it the way we'd like it passed.”
The ObamaCare push in the Senate follows the House passing its version, which congressional analysts say would end health-care coverage for an estimated 23 million Americans.
Senate Republicans have met privately for weeks on the issue and say they will have their own legislation. However, they realize that any plan that cuts the deficit by billions will also likely mean less coverage, particularly for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., in fact said last week that a vote on ObamaCare by the end of the year was “unlikely.”
White House legislative director Michael Short acknowledged Monday that the set of Russia investigations “detracts” from the president’s agenda.
Short also said Monday that he doesn’t expect legislation on tax reform until after Labor Day and that an infrastructure deal would come by the end of the year but the administration has “no firm timeline.”