Frustrated by Republican inaction on health care, President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that he had reached out to the Senate Democratic leader in hopes of brokering a deal for a “great HealthCare Bill.”
Trump said that he had called Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., on Friday to ask whether Democrats would work with him on health care – and Trump indicated that he had not been entirely rebuffed.
In a Saturday morning tweet, Trump wrote, “I called Chuck Schumer yesterday to see if the Dems want to do a great HealthCare Bill. ObamaCare is badly broken, big premiums. Who knows!”
Schumer responded, saying he was willing to work with Trump to “improve the existing health care system,” but not to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, former president Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health-care law.
“The president wanted to make another run at repeal and replace and I told the president that’s off the table,” Schumer said in a statement. “If he wants to work together to improve the existing health care system, we Democrats are open to his suggestions. A good place to start might be the Alexander-Murray negotiations that would stabilize the system and lower costs.”
Schumer was referring to a bipartisan health-care proposal by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.
On Friday, Democratic lawmakers condemned new rules issued by the Trump administration that widen the range of employers and insurers that can avoid the ACA requirement that birth control pills and other contraceptives be covered by insurance as part of preventive care because of religious beliefs.
“Particularly after the birth control decision yesterday, the administration has to stop sabotaging the law before anything real can happen,” a Democratic aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to be quoted by name, said Saturday.
Trump’s outreach to Schumer comes after the president infuriated fellow Republicans by negotiating a deal last month with Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government.
Trump’s dealings with “Chuck and Nancy,” as he affectionately called them, was seen by some congressional Republicans as an act of betrayal but have earned the president plaudits and framed him as the bipartisan dealmaker he said he would be.
Republicans control the House and Senate but have repeatedly failed to pass their health-care bill through the upper chamber. Their efforts to “repeal and replace Obamacare,” which for years has been the GOP’s campaign mantra, so far have garnered no Democratic support.
But Schumer and other Democrats have said they would be open to discussions with Trump and other Republicans to consider selective changes to the ACA. This summer, Schumer publicly offered to negotiate with Trump if Republicans were willing to drop what he called a “fundamentally flawed approach.”
“Let’s start over,” the Democratic leader said in June, challenging the president to invite Senate Democrats to Blair House for a meeting. “You think we’re not serious? Try us. Democrats are ready to turn the page on health care.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Philip Rucker