Trump invites Republican senators to lunch with Obamacare repeal on menu

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 13, 2017 11:43 AM

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump invited 13 Republican senators to lunch on Tuesday to discuss the status of repealing and replacing Obamacare, a White House official said, as Senate Republicans struggled to produce legislation doing just that.

Trump stepped up pressure for the repeal with a tweet Tuesday morning declaring that the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, "is in a death spiral." He cited the government's announcement Monday that some two million enrollees who signed up for Obamacare have dropped out this year.

Although Trump's Republican party has a majority in both houses of Congress, Trump blamed the lack of progress in repealing President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement on "obstructionist" Democrats.

The House of Representatives narrowly approved its version of repeal last month, but Senate Republicans have been unable to coalesce around their own version of a bill, with moderates and conservatives pushing in different directions in meetings behind closed doors.

The group of 13 senators that Trump invited to lunch includes Republicans from both ideological camps: moderate Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were on the list, as well as conservative Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said senators are closer to bringing up a proposal, and other Republicans have predicted for some time that a bill would be ready for a vote before the August recess.

One of the senators invited to Tuesday's lunch, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, said late on Monday he did not expect a Senate healthcare bill to be unveiled this week.

"I think we've got a little ways to go," he told reporters. "There's a lot of things that have to be resolved."

One of the key issues is the fate of the expansion of Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor, under the Affordable Care Act.

Senators from states that expanded Medicaid are seeking a “glide path” that would phase out the additional federal funding for the program over a period of seven years starting in 2020, instead of the abrupt cutbacks in the federal funding starting in 2020 that are called for under the House bill.

But conservatives would prefer less, and Senate leadership has suggested a three-year phase-out of Medicaid expansion.

"Nothing been nailed down on that, so everything's still on the table," Senator Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, one of the states that expanded Medicaid, said on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Bernadette Baum)