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Trump Wants Health Care Bill by August Recess

Press secretary won't take position on Senate vote this week, however

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the House GOP is getting closer to passing a health care overhaul, but other White House officials say the votes are locked down. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the House GOP is getting closer to passing a health care overhaul, but other White House officials say the votes are locked down. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump would like Congress to send him a final health care measure by the time lawmakers depart for their annual August recess — but he is not, for now, taking a position on whether the Senate has to vote on its version this week.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced the president’s desired timeline at his Monday briefing, which was held with the television cameras turned off, as is becoming the norm. But Spicer did not take a position on Trump’s behalf when asked if the president wants the Senate to vote on its health bill this week no matter what.

Spicer dropped the August recess demand in response to a question about whether Trump agrees with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, who tweeted earlier Monday that he believes the Senate must vote this week. 

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Cornyn took to Twitter to say he is “closing the door” on the notion that the Senate could put off a vote on the GOP leadership-crafted health measure following the July Fourth recess that will start late this week and last until July 12.

“We need to do it this week before double digit premium increases are announced for next year,” Cornyn tweeted.

It is not immediately clear what Cornyn’s reasoning on timing is. 

The federal deadline for the states that use was last week. States that run their own marketplaces can set their own deadlines. The filed rates are just requests. 

So it is possible Cornyn is referring to final rate announcements, which would be made after regulators weigh in and negotiate with insurers or require them to change them in states that allow that. But the process is already under way, and has an unclear effect on the congressional debate, and vice versa. 

Regardless, White House aides continue to paint the president as engaged in the Senate GOP leadership team’s efforts to find the 50 votes necessary to pass the measure that would partially repeal and replace the 2010 health law. Spicer said has spoken in recent days to GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky about the chamber’s health care legislation.

Trump is listening to their ideas and trying to determine what changes would be necessary to get them to vote in favor of the legislation later this week.

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Spicer dodged a question about a pro-Trump super PAC running ads targeting GOP Sen. Dean Heller, who said late last week he cannot support the Senate legislation in its current form due to concerns about its proposed Medicaid cuts.

The White House intends to continue working with Heller, he said. But he declined to address the issue of a group aligned with a GOP president going after a sitting Republican senator, saying only: “I have not seen the ad.”

Finishing work on the health bill by August would free up the autumn months for work on government spending, a debt ceiling showdown and other Trump-GOP agenda iteams like a tax overhaul package.

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