Donald Trump endorses Fox News show blasting Paul Ryan as President’s team targets Speaker

Rachael Revesz
Mr Trump thanked Mr Ryan for his ‘hard work’ but then tweeted encouragement to watch the Fox News segment: Reuters

Donald Trump often encourages viewers to tune in to Fox News when he or an adviser is giving an interview, but this time a take-down of Paul Ryan was the main feature.

“Watch @JudgeJeanine on @FoxNews tonight at 9:00 P.M,” he tweeted on Saturday.

In the opening statement of the cable show, host Jeanine Pirro spent six minutes blasting the Speaker of the House for the Republican’s proposed American Health Care Act, which was scrapped on Friday.

“Paul Ryan needs to step down as Speaker of the House,” she said.

“The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his healthcare bill. The one trumpeted to repeal and replace Obamacare – the one that he had seven years to work on.

“The one he hid under lock and key in the basement of Congress. The one that had to be pulled to prevent the embarrassment of not having enough votes to pass.”

The show was aired the day after the Republican Party was forced to pull its much-touted healthcare bill, which promised to open up competition between insurance providers and bring down premiums after seven years of Obamacare.

“We were a 10-year opposition party, where being against things was easy to do,” Mr Ryan said at a news conference on Friday, standing in the same room where two weeks earlier he had delivered a slide show presentation on the benefits of his new bill.

“We will get there,” he said, “but we weren’t there today.”

After months of simmering opposition, the hard-right have lasered their discontent onto Mr Ryan, calling for him to resign. Breitbart, formerly run by Mr Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon, displayed half a dozen negative headlines about the House Speaker on Friday. Fox News, the President’s beloved cable network, ran a separate op-ed calling Mr Ryan “the biggest threat to the GOP”. Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report and Paul Nehlen of Infowars, both outlets that the President has taken note of, have run similar negative commentary.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer told Fox that Mr Ryan’s fate would be “up to the members of the House”.

Critics of the failed bill had worried that the millions of low-income Americans who had gained coverage under Obamacare would lose their insurance under the new administration.

Mr Ryan has spent months, even years, heavily campaigning for healthcare reform. He argued that premiums had become unaffordable and choice of provider had plummeted in many states.

His efforts were supported by the President – “He worked very, very hard. I will tell you that. He worked very, very hard” – but the two have had a contentious relationship for the past few years. Behind closed doors, Mr Trump was reportedly fuming on Friday after the bill was scrapped, and he repeatedly asked his aides who was to blame.

On the campaign trail, Mr Ryan only endorsed Mr Trump a few months before the election. After a 2005 leaked video showed Mr Trump bragging about how he had the right to grab women’s genitals, Mr Ryan said he could no longer defend the business tycoon.

But Mr Trump reportedly does not want to axe Mr Ryan as he will need him to move forward other goals such as tax reform, and Mr Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, remains his ally.

Mark Meadows, chairman of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, which opposed the failed Republican health care bill, said it was not seeking to oust Mr Ryan.

“There are no conversations going on right now with regards to replacing the Speaker,” Mr Meadows, who helped force out previous House Speaker John Boehner in 2015, told ABC.

The new healthcare proposal was kept at Capitol Hill, armed by security guards. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was prevented from accessing the bill, as he said he would do on Twitter, “on behalf of the American people”.

He called it “Obamacare-lite”, as did many of his conservative colleagues.

While the bill maintained several aspects of Obamacare, it instated a cap on Medicaid from 2020 and mandated that people still pay a penalty if they did not buy coverage – but this time the penalty would aid the provider, not the government.

Michigan Representative Justin Amash said he and his conservative colleagues wanted Obamacare to be fully repealed, rather than the watered down version offered by Mr Ryan.

“From the beginning of the process, I think the way it was set up did not bring the disparate parts of the conference together,” Mr Amash said.

Republicans are still determined to overhaul healthcare.

“Obamacare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE,” Mr Trump tweeted. “Do not worry!”

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes