Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Sunday defended President Trump’s dedication to passing a new health care law after the president sent numerous tweets this week instead focused on attacking the press.
“The fact of the matter is that he can do more than one thing at a time,” Price said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
Asked specifically about President Trump’s tweets taking aim at the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Price said, “what I am concentrated on is the job that he’s given me and that is to make certain that we fulfill the mission of the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Price also affirmed that the Trump administration remains supportive of efforts in Congress to negotiate a bill aimed at both repealing and replacing parts of the Affordable Care Act, rather than repealing the law first and trying to replace it afterward.
On Friday, President Trump wrote on Twitter, “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!”
“We think that Leader McConnell and his senators within the Senate are working to try to get this piece of legislation on track,” Price said. “Their conversations are ongoing as we speak so we look forward to hopefully them coming aback after this 4th of July recess and getting the work done.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly indicated that he wanted to see a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act before the July 4 holiday break, but the bill stopped progressing after at least eight Republican senators indicated they would not support it, and even more expressed reservations with the rushed timing. Negotiations over the bill are continuing.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., doing a joint interview on “Meet The Press,” also urged bringing more governors into the conversation, with many from both parties speaking out against the current version of the Senate’s bill and urging a bipartisan consensus.
“We need governors involved,” Cassidy said. “I, for one, have called governors on both sides of the aisle, including my own, but including those from other states.”
Cassidy also touted the proposal he introduced earlier this year with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, which they called the “Patient Freedom Act,” an outline of a bill that would allow states to decide whether they wanted to stay with the Affordable Care Act or switch to a new, alternative structure.
Cassidy, who is also a physician, said he wasn’t very optimistic about a bipartisan deal on health care in the Senate until one Democrat came out in support of the proposal.
“Until a Democrat says they are willing to sign on to the Patient Freedom Act, which allows a blue state to do what they’re doing now, but allows a red state to do something different, I’m not sure we’re ready for bipartisanship,” he said.
Senator Carper said he was starting to have conversations with Republicans about ways to fix the current health care system under the Affordable Care Act. While Democratic senators have signaled that they would not support any kind of legislation that dismantles the law, Carper says Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would approve of other means of reaching out to the other party on health care.
“No, he’s okay with that,” Carper said on “Meet The Press.” “And then I’ve been talking to Republican governors, Democratic governors. I’m the old governor for eight years of Delaware. And I think the governors are actually going to be a major force in this in helping us get to a good place. They have to live with this stuff on a daily basis. And they run Medicaid and have a lot of interest in this and frankly have a lot of good insights.”
“I know Bill’s talked to them as well,” Carper added, referring to Cassidy. “Bill’s been very good about reaching over to our side as well. But I think we need to invite the governors in to help us figure out.”
Despite the delay this week, and although he wishes any new health care legislation would be bipartisan, Cassidy said he believes it’s still possible for Republicans to drum up 50 votes to support a health care bill.
“I think something can be done,” Cassidy acknowledged. “If you go back to the president’s intuitions and his campaign pledges, he wants to cover everybody: care for those with pre-existing conditions, eliminate mandates, lower premiums. That’s actually a place that you can get common ground. Granted, different people have different perspectives. But I’d like to think we still can.”
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