President Trump told GOP senators at the White House on Wednesday that they should cancel their August recess and not leave town until acting to repeal ObamaCare.
“We shouldn’t leave town until this is complete,” he said during a lunch at the White House. “We should hammer this out and get it done.”
Trump also said that repeal isn’t enough, and that Republicans should also replace ObamaCare with new legislation.
“We can repeal, but we should repeal and replace,” he said.
“Frankly I don’t think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we can give people great health care,” he continued. “Because we’re close. We’re very close.’’
The president challenged the GOP senators, saying that anyone who votes against beginning debate on the legislation is saying “you are fine with ObamaCare.”
Trump’s opening remarks at the luncheon were open to the press and quickly broadcast on cable television.
The president took a scolding tone at times during his remarks, urging GOP lawmakers to keep their campaign promises.
But the public tongue-lashing from Trump might not be well received by Republican senators, many of whom believe he has failed to master the details of the healthcare proposal and did little to sell it.
Trump took aim at those members during his remarks, saying that they now had someone at the White House who would sign a repeal bill.
He acknowledged this was different from 2015, when Republican lawmakers knew former President Barack Obama would veto legislation rolling back his signature healthcare law.
“Any senator who votes against debate says you are fine with ObamaCare,” Trump said, criticizing GOP lawmakers who have said they would do just that.
“I’ve been here six months,” he continued. “I’m ready to act, pen in hand, believe me. I’m sitting in that office. I have pen in hand. You never had that before.”
He also took a shot at Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who had announced his opposition to an earlier Senate ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill, which contributed to its failure.
Trump sat next to Heller, and joked about him wanting to “remain a senator.”
The senator responded by tilting back his head, chuckling and saying “oh.”
Heller is arguably the most endangered Republican Senate incumbent in 2018. Past White House-backed efforts to pressure the Nevada senator, including an ad campaign hitting him on healthcare, have sparked tension with GOP leaders.
Trump has expressed frustration with the Senate, which is scheduled to begin its recess the third week of August. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) previously cut back the recess by two weeks.
Senate Republicans this week failed to move forward with their legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare after several senators said they would not vote in favor of a motion to proceed to the bill.
A fallback option to simply repeal ObamaCare also seems destined for failure, with several centrist Republicans saying they also will not vote in favor of a procedural motion on that measure.
The president’s stated desire Wednesday for a repeal-and-replace bill may have added even more confusion to the jumbled process.
Just one day earlier, he said that Republicans in Congress should just sit back and “let Obamacare fail.”
That came after a Monday tweet, in which he appeared to endorse the repeal-without-replace plan.
“Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!” he wrote.
Only three GOP senators missed the lunch: Richard Burr (N.C.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.) and John McCain (Ariz.).
Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he is limiting his trips to the White House while his panel investigates Russia’s election interference. McCain is in Arizona recovering from surgery.
— This story was updated at 1:53 p.m.