KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Trump Tries To Round Up Reluctant Republicans For Health Care Bill

Mar 12, 2017
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In politics this week, it's all about health care. President Trump and the GOP get to work hammering out a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. For a preview, we turn to NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this is the first piece of legislation, a huge moment for any new administration, but one that's particularly important for Donald Trump, right?

LIASSON: Yes, particularly important. This is a big shift for him because we're moving from the unilateral executive order phase of his presidency to the legislative phase. He has to pass bills, and he is going to be the ultimate insider here.

You know, he started last week - a day ago last week - still acting like the ultimate outsider, throwing bombs at President Obama, accusing him of wiretapping his phones without any evidence. But now he has to convince members of his party - conservatives and moderates and, down the line, some Democrats - to be with him on this health care bill.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there's a lot of division, right? I mean, how can Trump overcome the division in his party over this bill?

LIASSON: Well, that's a good question because Donald Trump said he wanted insurance for everybody. And during the campaign, he said Republicans would be, quote, "committing suicide" if they touched entitlements like Medicaid. And now he has thrown his support behind Paul Ryan's plan, which only promises access to insurance and it cuts Medicaid.

And as you said, conservatives do not like it. They consider it Obamacare lite because it keeps subsidies in the form of tax credits. And populist parts of his base, including Breitbart, which is the conservative website that used to be run by Steve Bannon, Trump's top strategist...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right.

LIASSON: ...Said this week in a headline, Obamacare 2.0 is all but guaranteed to hurt Trump's base and hand power back to the Democrats. So how he gets everyone on board, maybe he has to move the bill a little bit to the right in the House to get the conservative Freedom Caucus votes, make deeper, faster cuts in Medicaid - that's something they're talking about. That could hurt his chances of getting more moderate Republicans in the Senate. But that being said, the bill did pass two House committees without any hearings or any amendments, so it does have momentum.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And he touts himself as a deal-maker, and he's going to have to definitely make some deals on this. There's a lot of interest on something that's coming up, the Congressional Budget Office report. It's expected out tomorrow. The CBO is a nonpartisan government agency - let's remind our listeners - and it provides budget data to Congress. What is the big deal with this report? Everyone's looking at it.

LIASSON: This is a huge moment because the CBO is expected to show anywhere from, like, 10 or 15 million people losing health care under the Republican plan, and the plan would also add to the deficit. You know, only 20 million people got health care through the exchanges in Medicaid expansion, so that 10 to 15 million would be a big chunk of that.

Now, CBO is run by a Republican. It's been considered to be an impartial arbiter, a kind of nonpartisan, green eyeshade look at the cost and impacts of legislation. And it always makes the White House angry, whether it's a Democrat or a Republican president.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is that true?

LIASSON: But this is why you saw Sean Spicer and other Republicans trying to delegitimize the CBO, saying that they've been wrong in the past. They want people to basically ignore the referee. Now, it's true, CBO did initially overestimate the number of people who would get Obamacare. But of all the independent analysts of Obamacare, CBO was actually the most accurate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, NPR's Mara Liasson. Thank you so much, Mara. I appreciate it.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.