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Trump planning Obamacare orders on Day One

As Obama and Pence huddle with their parties on the Hill, Donald Trump tweets that GOP must keep heat on Democratic ‘clowns.’

Updated

Vice President-elect Mike Pence told House Republicans Wednesday that Donald Trump may sign executive orders that would help repeal pieces of Obamacare, but implored GOP lawmakers in a closed meeting to tell their constituents “the truth”: That Democrats are still to blame for any of the law’s failures.

It’s a dual-track message: Pence and the president-elect want to show that they’re moving toward repeal, but also want to continue to lay the responsibility for any problems at Democrats’ feet. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, huddled with Hill Democrats to discuss their own strategy to protect his signature health care law.

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“We’re working out right now with the White House staff and in concert with legislative leadership a two-track approach to ensuring that it is an orderly transition as the president-elect has directed,” Pence said of the repeal effort. “We’re talking about people’s lives. We’re talking about families. But we are also talking about a policy that has been a failure virtually since its inception.”

The message comes as Trump tweeted about the health care law, saying Democrats “own” any problems with Obamacare. In an interview with Politico Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans must fix Obamacare, underscoring Democrats’ plans to blame Republicans for any troubles with the law from here on out.

Schumer, in fact, debuted a new Democratic rallying cry Wednesday, borrowing from Trump’s signature slogan to declare that by repealing the law, Republicans are going to “make America sick again.”

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Trump and Republican lawmakers appear to be sensitive to those attacks, and they seem intent on avoiding any blame for post-repeal problems. In a series of Wednesday tweets, Trump warned fellow Republicans to not fall into the trap of taking ownership of the health law’s shortcomings and cautioned them “don’t let the Schumer clowns out of this mess.”

“Republicans must be careful in that the Dems own the failed ObamaCare disaster, with its poor coverage and massive premium increases……like the 116% hike in Arizona,” Trump tweeted, adding, “Also, deductibles are so high that it is practically useless. Don’t let the Schumer clowns out of this web…massive increases of ObamaCare will take place this year and Dems are to blame for the mess. It will fall of its own weight – be careful!”

Moment later, Pence told Republicans in the closed meeting that they need to be aggressive about blaming Obama and the Democrats for Obamacare’s demise — and highlight their own plans for a replacement strategy that rescues the health care market.

“Part of the thing we have to do is message the ‘failure’ of Obamacare,” said Trump’s top Hill ally Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) “We can talk about replacing, but it starts with America knowing the Democrats have failed… We’re coming in to fix that failure with a replacement plan that will work for all of Americans.”

Pence also said the Trump transition team is already working on executive orders to ensure a “smooth transition” out of Obamacare — but Congress will still need to pass legislation to help in the process. He did not specify what those executive orders may look like, but Collins said Pence suggested those orders could be signed as early as Trump’s first day in office.

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Pence’s and Obama’s visit to the Hill is the first formal engagement by the new Congress in the seven-year political war over Obamacare, and for the first time — with Trump preparing to enter the White House — Republicans hold a distinct upper hand.

Democrats recognize that there’s little they can do to prevent the repeal, a top priority of Republicans in Congress even as they’ve struggled to develop a long-promised plan to replace the embattled health care law. But they’re preparing for a messaging battle to make Republicans feel the squeeze as they upend programs that have helped cover millions of previously uninsured Americans.

They’re also vowing to muck-up the repeal process in any way they can, promising to make life difficult for Republicans trying to come up with a replacement plan to swap out with Obamacare.

Fine-tuning these plots drove Wednesday’s meeting with Obama, who tried to give Democrats hope that they can protect Obamacare.

Obama told Democrats to create a national campaign ahead of the repeal vote to sell the positive aspects of Obamacare and pressure centrist Republicans to change course, senators said.

The best case scenario for Democrats is that “There are enough senate republicans that realize that simple repeal without a replacement is irresponsible,” said Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Obama emphasized that it’s up to Democrats to lay out the consequences of repeal and that “tearing it down is relatively easy but tearing this down without harming tens of millions of people is incredibly hard,” an attendee said.

“You should be proud of what we did,” Obama said, according to the attendee. “Don’t take any glee in their screwing it up.”

One member said some Democrats were hoping Obama would come with a “silver bullet” but he didn’t offer that, and said the meeting proved to be more of a pep rally.

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After his meeting, when asked about what advice he gave to Democrats on how to fight, Obama responded: “Look out for the American people.”

Beyond just blaming Republicans for Obamacare’s shortcomings, Schumer said Democrats won’t be there to fix any problems Republicans create and they won’t help them replace the law.

“If they think we’re going to come in and save their butts when they screw it up? No,” he told POLITICO in a Playbook interview that published on Wednesday.

Flanked by Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Obama entered his meeting with Democrats shortly before 9:30 am and ignored a shouted question on whether Democrats should help Republicans replace Obamacare.

Pence on the other side of the Capitol was joined by a phalanx of key Trump aides, underscoring the apparent importance of Wednesday’s meeting. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and future counselor in the White House, was with Pence, along with Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs and Pence’s own chief of staff, Josh Pitcock.

Seung Min Kim, Heather Caygle and Burgess Everett contributed to this story.

Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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