Trump Pushes Health Care Bill, Singles Out Rand in Louisville
President suggests tax reform cannot happen if Congress doesn't pass AHCA swiftly
President Donald Trump took his case for GOP congressional leadership’s health reform initiative to the home state of one of its fiercest conservative critics, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Speaking in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump urged Paul to support the American Health Care Act. He said its passage is necessary in order to tackle another major priority — tax reform.
“I happen to like, a lot, Sen. Rand Paul … And I look forward to working with him so we can get this bill passed, in some form, so that we can pass massive tax reform which we can’t do until this happens.”
“I happen to like, a lot, Sen. Rand Paul … He’s a good guy,” he said. “And I look forward to working with him so we can get this bill passed, in some form, so that we can pass massive tax reform which we can’t do until this happens.”
The health bill, which faces a key vote Thursday in the House of Representatives, has drawn fire from all sides. Conservatives who have called it “Obamacare Lite” dislike the tax credits that they compare to subsidies that are a feature of the current law. They also want changes to Medicaid to be implemented faster.
At the same time, moderate Republicans oppose cuts to Planned Parenthood funding and fret over projections by the Congressional Budget Office that 24 million people will be uninsured in 10 years if the bill passes.
Trump called the status quo under the Affordable Care Act a “complete and total catastrophe” and repeated his promise to “repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare.”
Trump alluded to concerns over the bill, saying that changes are inevitable. House leaders have indicated that tweaks would be made before the chamber votes on Thursday. Trump said there would be negotiations as the bill moves through the House and the Senate.
“The end result is going to be wonderful,” he said.
Trump said Obamacare covered more than 2,000 pages and that thousands of additional pages in regulations since have been added. He alluded to former President Obama’s infamous broken promise that people would be able to keep their doctors and insurance plans if they liked them.
Trump also noted that the Democrats tapped Kentucky's former governor, Steve Beshear, to deliver the party's respond to his joint address to Congress last month. Beshear speech amounted to a defense of Obamacare.
"And the plan doesn't work in Kentucky," he said.
Trump said that he intends, either as part of the current bill or as followup legislation, to tackle the high cost of medicine. Pharmaceutical drugs often are cheaper in other countries.
"Same pill, same manufacturer — identical — and it's many times higher in the United States," he said.
Trump also made a plug for his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, whose confirmation hearings began Monday.
"Judge Neil Gorsuch's hearing is now underway in the Senate and I urge members of both parties to swiftly approve his nomination," he said. "He is an outstanding man from an outstanding family with an unbelievably wonderful wife."
Aside from Gorsuch and health care, Trump's Louisville speech read like a greatest hits tape from the presidential campaign. It was notable for what it did not include — any mention of the politically charged House Intelligence Committee hearing earlier in the day in which FBI Director James Comey said his agents were investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the election.
Instead, Trump stuck to topics that he has talked about repeatedly for 18 months:
Infrastructure spending. "After spending trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, it is indeed time," he said, pointing to his approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline projects. "We are going to start taking care of our country."
Border security. Trump promised to build "a great, great border wall" and noted a sharp drop in illegal border crossings from January to February. He said his administration would continue its crackdown on illegal immigrants who have committed other crimes. "One by one they are being tracked down and thrown the hell out of our country, and we will not let them back in," he said.
Trade. "We have to take on every special interest that has profited from — and I don't mean, like a little bit — terrible trade deals, horrible trade deals."
Coal mining. "We are going to put our coal miners back to work. They have not been treated well, but they're going to be treated well now," he said, adding that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt "will turn the EPA from a job killer into a job creator. You watch."
North Korea's nuclear program and saber-rattling. "What's happening there is disgraceful and not smart, not smart at all," he said.