Trump urges support for health care plan so he can move on
By JULIE BYKOWICZ and KEN THOMAS
Mar. 21, 2017
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — President Donald Trump is trying to give the teetering Republican plan to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's health care law a new sense of urgency by saying he'd like to get it over with and move on to his preferred agenda items.
In an arena filled with thousands of cheering Kentuckians Monday evening, Trump roped the future of the House-crafted health care proposal to his ability to fulfill other campaign pledges such as reducing taxes and renegotiating trade deals.
"We want a very big tax cut, but cannot do that until we keep our promise to repeal and replace the disaster known as 'Obamacare,'" he told the crowd of thousands in Louisville. "This is our long-awaited chance to finally get rid of 'Obamacare.'"
Trump plans to court House Republicans during a Tuesday morning trip to Capitol Hill. The House is expected to vote on the Republican legislation on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the passage of Obama's health care restructuring.
The legislation to undo Obama's signature Affordable Care Act of 2010 faces an uncertain future in both chambers — thanks largely to members of the president's own party, including some who see it as not enough of a "repeal."
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has called the repeal-and-replace plan "Obamacare Lite" and is actively working to defeat it.
The state's other senator — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — accompanied Trump to his Kentucky rally.
McConnell stepped onto the stage to a smattering of boos and spoke for about one minute, only to briefly re-emerge when Trump asked him to assure the crowd that the health care plan was "looking good." McConnell peeked from behind a curtain and offered two thumbs up.
In Trump's two previous campaign-style rallies since inauguration, which are put on by his 2020 election committee, Trump barely mentioned health care. This time, his 40-minute remarks more fully explored the subject. Trump — and the capacity crowd in the arena — appeared more animated when he talked about other matters.
"We're going to be doing some trade deals as soon as we get the health care finished — oh, I'm looking forward to these trade deals," Trump said, seeming to sing those last two words as the audience applauded.
Trump said he is working with McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other lawmakers to get the health care rewrite passed.
"We're going to do it; we're going to do it," Trump said, though not with the vigor that marks his signature lines. He said he was determined to get the legislation passed "in some form."
Trump also hinted at several political exit strategies, drawing huge cheers when he said, "It's time for Democrat leaders in Washington to take responsibility for the disaster that they and they alone created."
He also said he is eager to reduce the cost of medicine "through the competitive bidding process. Some people think that's just as important as health care."
Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.