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Donald Trump recently suffered a blow as opposition from within his own party forced Republican leaders to cancel a vote on healthcare reform for the second time. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump recently suffered a blow as opposition from within his own party forced Republican leaders to cancel a vote on healthcare reform for the second time. Photo: Reuters

Donald Trump warns Freedom Caucus amid talk of reviving healthcare bill

Donald Trump tweeted the Freedom Caucus would hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team fast

Washington: Donald Trump warned the conservative House Freedom Caucus that it is going to drag down the GOP’s entire agenda after it helped block the Obamacare repeal effort, a sign of the party’s deep disarray after the embarrassing setback.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!" Trump tweeted Thursday morning, raising the stakes as party leaders try to turn their attention to a promised tax overhaul.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, reeling from last week’s aborted effort to pass the GOP’s healthcare bill, issued his own caution to Republicans that they need to unify or risk tempting the president to cut a deal with Democrats.

As Republican lawmakers discuss reviving their health bill, Ryan told CBS that he fears that “if we don’t do this, then he’ll just go work with Democrats to try and change Obamacare. And that’s not, that’s hardly a conservative thing."

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“I don’t want that to happen," Ryan said of a Trump partnership with Democrats, saying he favours a “patient-centered" approach while Democrats want “government running health care."

The strong words comes after several House Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that the party may attempt another vote next week on the health-care bill, even as leaders tried to tamp down expectations.

“It’s not going to the floor next week," Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the chief House GOP vote-counter, said Thursday morning. “The leader schedules the floor. But I don’t anticipate it going next week." But some Republicans appeared uncomfortable with the harsh new tone coming from their party’s top leaders.

“We have come a long way in our country when the speaker of one party urges a president NOT to work with the other party to solve a problem," Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee tweeted after Ryan’s remarks aired, but before Trump’s tweet.

If Republicans do revive a health-care bill, that would be a shift from last week, when Trump said the party would move on to other issues, including a tax overhaul, after the long-awaited bill was pulled 30 minutes ahead of a scheduled floor vote.

Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said Thursday that she would like the House to bring the bill back. “I hope we do something next week," she said. “We’ve been working on a bill. We’re still working."

Two-week recess

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who helped derail the bill last week, have been talking with some Republican moderate holdouts in an effort to identify changes that could help win their support for the measure. The House is scheduled to begin a two-week recess 7 April, and Republicans would like to return home having passed some version of a health-care measure that only days ago was declared dead.

Democrats have indicated they may be receptive to working with the White House if Republicans focus on reforming Obamacare.

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“Many Republicans just want repeal," Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, told MSNBC Thursday. “If they will take repeal off the table, Democrats will slide the chairs up to the table." Durbin said Senate Democrats already are talking to Republicans willing to set aside the idea of repeal and that on some level in terms of talks “the effort’s underway."

Durbin said he believes the White House is “more receptive now" to bipartisan negotiations after last week’s defeat in the House.

Two Republican lawmakers, describing plans on the condition of anonymity, said Wednesday that House leaders would consider working into the weekend, although it was unclear what changes would be made to the Republicans’ health bill.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated Wednesday the health plan would come up again “as soon as we figure it out and get the votes." McCarthy said nothing is currently scheduled and didn’t indicate how leadership would resolve divisions between the Freedom Caucus and moderates in the so-called Tuesday Group.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, has been negotiating with colleagues on a compromise.

“There’s a real commitment among members he’s been speaking with to not give up and move expeditiously toward a path forward," his spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, said. “But he doesn’t want to constrain himself to artificial deadlines like ‘before recess.’" Bloomberg

Anna Edgerton also contributed to this story.

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