Republicans still don't know what Donald Trump wants on healthcare, Mitch McConnell says

Jeremy B White
Mitch McConnell speaks to the media with U.S. President Donald Trump at his side in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on October 16, 2017: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Republicans are still uncertain what Donald Trump wants to do on healthcare and are awaiting the President’s direction, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said.

“What I’m waiting is to hear from President Trump what kind of healthcare bill he might sign”, Sen McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said during an appearance on CNN’s State of The Union.

Despite both houses being controlled by Republicans Congress has repeatedly failed to repeal Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare law, falling short on a longstanding conservative campaign pledge. With legislative efforts foundering, Mr Trump moved to dismantle a central aspect of the law by revoking payments to health insurers.

Amid warnings that the pullback would upend insurance markets, Republican senator Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray announced a deal to sustain the payments - a bill that has since attracted support from both parties. The president has sent mixed signals on the bill, saying “I’m not going to do it” and then “that’s a very good solution” during the same appearance next week.

Asked about what comes next, Sen McConnell appeared uncertain about the President’s intentions.

“We need a bill the president will actually sign and I’m not certain yet what the President’s looking for here, but I’d be happy to bring a bill to the floor if I knew the president would sign it”, Sen McConnell said.

In a separate interview on Fox News, Mr Trump praised the authors of the new bill but was vague about whether he would support the measure. He noted that the secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services has “tremendous leeway” to administer the law (his pick to lead the agency, Tom Price, recently stepped down amid reports of his use of private and military aircraft) and said he believed a full repeal would still advance.

“We’ll have that long before the election in 2018”, Mr Trump said.

The President has clashed with Sen McConnell and other Senate Republicans over their failure to advance a healthcare repeal bill and, increasingly, over their questioning his foreign policy. Asked about his public spats with Republican senators Bob Corker and John McCain, both of whom have warned that Mr Trump’s foreign policy is destabilizing the world, Mr Trump said the “bickering and feuding” was useful.

“Sometimes it helps”, Mr Trump said. “Sometimes it gets people to do what they’re supposed to be doing”.