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White House Signals Own Path on Health Care

Reference to president’s own plan signals dual tracks for GOP

President Donald Trump, seen here during his press conference Thursday, has the media right where he wants them, Wetherbee writes. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump, seen here during his press conference Thursday, has the media right where he wants them, Wetherbee writes. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Updated 4:40 p.m. | The White House declined Wednesday to rule out that President Donald Trump will push his own plan to replace the 2010 health care law rather than pursue one course with congressional Republicans.

When asked if there will be a single White House-congressional GOP plan, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer left the door open for Trump to roll out his own plan — no matter what lawmakers do. Minutes later, Spicer referred to “the president’s plan” when discussing how the administration intends to achieve one of its top campaign goals.

Since Trump’s election, which also saw the GOP keep the House and Senate, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have celebrated an era of “unified” GOP governance. But Spicer’s comments suggest the party lacks a unified approach on how to dismantle the health care law and replace it.

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Trump, during a meeting with senior aides about the federal budget just minutes before Spicer’s briefing, repeated his pledge to produce a health care plan next month. He said it should be rolled out “maybe mid-to-early March,” adding that his White House will be “submitting something” to Congress “that I think people will be very impressed by.”

It’s unclear how GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will approach such a submission. Some of that might depend on how detailed the White House plan is.

It is unlikely anyone expects draft legislation from the White House. It could come in the form of a broad outline or white paper, similar to what the House GOP released recently.

Regardless, House committees with jurisdiction plan to mark up their own versions in March. The Senate would then amend the House version.

A House GOP leadership aide did not deny that the administration might issue its own plan, saying only that talks with the White House are ongoing.

Meanwhile, Trump also signaled he favors deep federal budget cuts, saying the government “must do a lot more with less.”

“The finances of this country are a mess, but we’re going to clean that up,” he told reporters, according to a pool report. He vowed to hold “everybody accountable for that.”

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Trump also deflected any blame for the country’s finances.

“We’re going to take this budget, which is, in all fairness, I’ve only been here for four weeks so I can’t take too much of the blame for what’s happened, but it is absolutely out of control,” the president said.

Trump again vowed to renegotiate federal contracts, saying his administration already has “saved a lot — billions and billions of dollars.”

President Trump met with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, senior adviser Jared Kushner, chief strategist Steve Bannon, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and OMB officials Russ Vought and Emma Doyle over lunch on Wednesday to discuss the federal budget.

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