— -- President Donald Trump did not pressure Republican senators to rush a new draft of the health care bill at a Tuesday meeting, sources say, but instead lamented the saga that took place on the House side, and said the bill that passed in in the lower chamber was “mean” and the Senate bill should be more “generous.”
“He wasn’t prescribing deadlines, because I think he recognized what happened in the House wasn’t good, and he wants to make sure that we have a process that proceeds in an orderly way,” said Sen. John Thune, R-SD, who attended the meeting at the White House.
Thune acknowledged that Trump was “open to suggestions, and didn’t make any pronouncements one way or the other.”
“I think he was just sort of conveying that the thinks it’s really important that we get this done, and it’s OK that the Senate is going its own direction,” Thune said. “I think he was happy to hear that we’re making good progress, and is hopeful that we’ll be able to get this done soon because I think there is a sense of urgency.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) called the meeting “productive.”
Trump previously heaped praise on the bill after it was passed in a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden in May, saying it was "very, very incredibly well-crafted, and hailed it as "a great plan."
So, where are they now?
Despite promises of progress made, most members could not answer basic questions about the status a draft or outline. Leaving a GOP team lunch today on the Hill, which Vice President Mike Pence attended, Sen Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, “We’ve still got a ways to go…let’s put it this way, the total bill hasn’t been resolved.”
“We’re a ways away [from a vote],” he went on. “We’re just talking right now. The Senate loves to talk.”
Republicans still say they want to get a bill done by the July 4 recess, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he could not give any “specificity" on timing.
He punted entirely when asked about the July 4 recess.
“Our goal is to move forward quickly,” he said. “The status quo [of the Obamacare law] is unsustainable,” he said. “We all know something has to be done and something has to be done soon… The idea is to get enough votes to pass it. Unfortunately, it will have to be a Republicans-only exercise and we are working hard to get there.”
Earlier in the day, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., told reporters he was under the impression that an outline was being floated to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to see “if they were moving in the right direction.” But later in the day, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., pushed back on the idea of whether CBO scores even matter.
Where is the transparency?
Democrats, meanwhile, are out in force accusing Republicans of hiding their working drafts. The same complaints were made in the House this spring. Democrat Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, N.Y., said plainly that press access issues seen today in parts of the U.S. Capitol were because the GOP is “ashamed” of its current health care bill. He blasted Republicans for not holding regular hearings and called the process “legislative malpractice.”
McConnell pushed back on this idea and said they were all well-versed in the subject.
“It is not a new thing. We know a lot about the subject. We know how complicated it is,” he said when asked about whether there would be standard committee hearings. “Nobody is hiding the ball here. You are free to ask anybody, anything. There have a been a gizzillion hearings on this subject. We understand this issue pretty well and we are not working on coming up with a solution.”
“We’ve been litigating this for the last eight years,” Thune said, reiterating McConnell’s comments.
What are the specifics?
Thune told reporters that his colleagues are working on language that would include a deficit reduction in the bill that was also included in the House bill, “which means we’re going to have to find savings elsewhere in the bill.”
Thune also said he thinks most taxes are going to go away that consumers have to pay on prescriptions, medical devices and insurance plans.