Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump wants to pass health care reform. But his most consequential action on the issue this month — calling the bill the House passed “mean” in a private meeting with Senate Republicans — has only made things more difficult.
Trump’s comment was not entirely off-the-cuff. The President, those close to him say, has read coverage about how health care reform could kick millions off health insurance and slash Medicaid spending and hike premiums for older Americans — and has taken the implications of the bill to heart. Before the meeting in which he called the bill “mean,” Trump publicly said the Senate should spend more to make the plan “generous, kind (and) with heart.”
But by describing the House bill as “mean,” Trump has both armed Democrats with a powerful tool to rally their base and caused skeptical Republicans, especially those who Trump will soon ask to go out on a limb for the bill, to question their loyalty to a President who hasn’t been consistent on this issue. The calculation for those Republicans goes like this: Why endanger yourself for a unpopular bill that the President will decry it mere weeks after he celebrates it?
After all, Trump touted the House GOP health care bill when it passed last month in a celebration at the White House, where he called it “incredibly well-crafted.”
The Senate is currently hammering out the health care deal behind closed doors, a fact Senate Democrats have slammed. White House officials have worked with the Senate on the plan — making clear what the President wants in the negotiations — but a White House aide bluntly said this week that they view the bill as being “in (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell’s hands.”
“We are talking to the people we need to,” this official said, “but no one knows the Senate better than Mitch McConnell.”
The President’s “mean” comment, though, has not only undermined his negotiating power in the upcoming Senate discussions, it has also left House Republicans scratching their heads about how Trump could have sold a bill that he thought was “mean.”
Trump had applauded the last-minute deal that allowed states to waive requirements that insurers cover essential health benefits, and a key protection for people with…