President Trump told Republican senators Wednesday that they shouldn’t leave Washington for August recess until they send him an ObamaCare repeal bill to sign.
Senators responded by vowing to revive legislative efforts left for dead twice already this week. Success was far from assured, but Trump declared "I'm ready to act," putting the responsibility on Republican lawmakers, not himself.
Trump’s comments came the same day that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office announced that a straight repeal of ObamaCare would leave 32 million more Americans without health insurance by 2026.
The CBO also projected that premiums for individual policies would double over the same time period, while about half of all Americans would live in areas where no insurer would offer individual polices at all by 2020.
The developments at the White House came just a day after the latest GOP health care plan collapsed in the Senate, leading Trump himself to say it was time to simply let President Barack Obama's health care law fail.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had indicated he was prepared to stick a fork in the Republican bill and move on to other issues including overhauling the tax code.
Trump pressured McConnell to delay the key vote until next week, and he invited Republican senators to the White House for lunch. There, with the cameras rolling in the State Dining Room, Trump spoke at length as he cajoled, scolded and issued veiled threats to his fellow Republicans, all aimed at wringing a health care bill out of a divided caucus that's been unable to produce one so far.
"For seven years you promised the American people that you would repeal Obamacare. People are hurting. Inaction is not an option and frankly I don't think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan," he said.
Seated next to Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who is vulnerable in next year's midterm elections, Trump remarked: "He wants to remain a senator, doesn't he?" as Heller gave a strained grin.
Two different versions of repeal-and-replace legislation fell short of votes before coming to the floor.
At the White House lunch, the discussion was not simply about repealing ObamaCare but also how to replace it as Republicans said that after seven years of promises, they could not let their efforts die without one last fight.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who on Tuesday announced she would vote "no" on the "motion to proceed" to the repeal-only bill, demurred when asked after Wednesday's lunch whether she remains "no," telling reporters: "We don't know what the motion to proceed is for all certainty."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.