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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, April 03, 2019 1:00 am

McConnell shuts down Trump health care push

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – “Not any longer.” And with that, a triumphant Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to close the book Tuesday on a divisive Republican debate, convincing President Donald Trump to shelve plans to replace the Affordable Care Act until after the 2020 election.

“I made it clear to him that we were not going to be doing that in the Senate,” McConnell told reporters.

It was a rare public disclosure of private counsel from the Republican leader. And it signaled that, after two years in Trump's Washington, Republicans on Capitol Hill are figuring out how to handle the president and his impulsive swerves on policy.

Trump insisted Tuesday it was his idea to switch course.

“I wanted to delay it myself,” Trump said during an event at the White House. “I want to put it after the election.”

Facing a court deadline, Trump seized on health care last week, backing a lawsuit seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Trump's motivations were as political as they were legislative. He didn't want to cede the issue again in the 2020 campaign, according to a person familiar with the conversations who was not authorized to speak publicly.

“We're going to keep the presidency, and we'll vote in the best health care package we've ever had,” he said.

Trump and McConnell had not spoken for days. The president stunned Republicans last week by announcing he wanted to try again to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, insisting the GOP could become the “party of health care.”

Republicans wanted no part of a do-over after their failure to replace the law in 2017. Facing a revolt from the ranks, McConnell told the president he needed him to listen, according to a person who was granted anonymity to discuss the private call.

McConnell explained to Trump that senators are open to tackling specific aspects of health care – namely, trying to lower prescription drug prices. But Trump's promised big, new health care bill wasn't going happen with Democrats running the House. Instead, Trump could focus on the issue during the election.

Trump told McConnell he “accepted” the situation and “would be developing a plan that he would take to the American people during the 2020 campaign.” That night, Trump tweeted as much.

“So we don't have a misunderstanding about that,” McConnell said Tuesday.

Trump tweeted late Monday that Congress will vote on a GOP plan after the elections “when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House.”