Health care

Trump keeping door open for repeal-only health bill, White House aide says

President Trump is pressuring Republican senators to back a bill to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law but is holding open a repeal-option if Republicans cannot reach an agreement over the July 4 recess, a White House aide said Sunday.

Marc Short, the White House’s legislative director, said on “Fox News Sunday” Trump was making weekend calls and believed senators were “getting close” on passing a bill. However, Trump also believes that a repeal-only legislation should also be considered, something that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has completely dismissed.

“Our preference is to pass the bill the Senate has right now," Short said. "If the replacement part is too difficult for Republicans to get together, then let's go back and take care of the first step of repeal."

Trump on Friday tweeted the suggestion to repeal Obamacare right away and then replace it later, an approach that GOP leaders and the president himself dismissed months ago. Democratic senators would only need three defectors to kill the proposed measure.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., have urged McConnell to consider a repeal-only bill first. Paul went as far to say that he did not think the current bill could garner more than 50 votes.

"I don't think we're getting anywhere with the bill we have. We're at an impasse," Paul said on “Fox News Sunday.” "The bill is just being lit up like a Christmas tree full of billion-dollar ornaments, and it's not repeal. I think you can get 52 Republicans for clean repeal."

Sasse, speaking on CNN, said he would like to see a bill that would repeal Obamacare “with a delay.”

"If we can do a combined repeal and replace over the next week, that's great," Sasse said. "If we can't, though, then there's no reason to walk away."

Republicans have long debated and ultimately discarded the idea of repealing the overhaul before replacing it, concluding that both must happen simultaneously. Doing otherwise would invite accusations that Republicans were simply tossing people off coverage and roil insurance markets by raising the question of whether, when and how Congress might replace Obama's law once it was gone.

But at least nine GOP senators expressed opposition after a CBO analysis last week found that McConnell's draft bill would result in 22 million people losing insurance over the next decade, only 1 million fewer than under the House-passed legislation that Trump privately told senators was "mean."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.