By Jeremy Diamond
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump struck a cautiously optimistic tone Wednesday, the day after Senate Republican leaders scuttled plans for a vote on health care reform this week in the face of stiff resistance from within the party’s own ranks.
“We’re going to have a big surprise,” Trump said during a brief photo opportunity with reporters as he welcomed the World Series-winning Chicago Cubs at the White House. “We’re going to have a great, great surprise.”
Trump declined to say what the surprise would be, but his comments stood in contrast to the state of play on health care reform on Wednesday, with nine Republican senators publicly expressing their opposition to the Senate bill Trump is pushing and a pair of polls showing rock-bottom public support for the bill.
Hours before promising a “surprise,” Trump acknowledged that shuttling the health care legislation through the Senate is “very tough,” but said he believed he and Republicans would “get it over the line.”
“We have given ourselves a little bit more time to make it perfect,” he said in brief remarks in the White House’s Roosevelt Room where he was hosting a roundtable on energy.
“I think we’re going to get at least very close and I think we’re going to get it over the line,” Trump said.
The President’s comments came a day after he sat down with Senate Republicans at the White House to discuss the struggling health care reform efforts that have dogged his presidency.
With just 52 Republicans in the Senate, the White House can only afford to lose two senators to pass the Senate’s version of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare — a promise at the core of nearly every Republicans’ campaign platforms in recent years.
Trump acknowledged the difficulties of earning widespread GOP support for the reform effort because “every state is different, every senator is different,” but called his meeting with Senate Republicans “really impressive” and said there was a “great, great feeling in that room yesterday.”
“I think this has a chance to be great health care at a reasonable cost. People can save a lot of money, we get rid of the mandates, we get rid of so much. We have a lot of the taxes, all of the bad parts of Obamacare are gone, it’s a repeal and replace,” he said, surrounded by local, state and tribal leaders at the White House to discuss energy policy.
Later, as he greeted members of the Chicago Cubs baseball team in the Oval Office, Trump rebuffed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for convening an all-senators meeting to negotiate health care reform — in what would be a break from the Republican-centric reform efforts thus far.
“I don’t think he’s serious,” Trump said of Schumer. “He hasn’t been serious. Obamacare is such a disaster. And he wants to try and save something that’s hurting a lot of people. It’s hurting a lot of people.”
The White House dubbed this week “energy week” — the latest themed week in its efforts to channel White House messaging on the administration’s policy efforts.
Trump and his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill have struggled to make good on their promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation, amid conflicting policy views within the Republican conference and as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that millions of people would not have health insurance coverage as a result of the bills that have worked their way through Congress.
House Republicans passed a version of those reform efforts early last month, but the bill faced quick resistance from Senate Republicans.
Trump has thus far failed to herd the various Republican factions into supporting the bill. Staying away from the bill’s policy specifics, Trump has instead focused on the political benefits of passing legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare to lobby lawmakers.
Trump during his campaign argued it would be “so easy” to pass a replacement to Obamacare, but in late February acknowledged the difficulties he was facing in putting that campaign promise into law.
“Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” he said at the time.