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President Donald Trump says he thinks Republicans have enough votes in the House of Representatives to win a key vote Thursday to repeal the national health care law that former President Barack Obama considered his signature legislative achievement.
Trump offered his prediction Tuesday after meeting with the House Republican caucus on Capitol Hill.
The president wooed lawmakers who have been reluctant to support his plan, either because they believe it does not go far enough in overturning the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, or conversely because it would leave too many poor people without health insurance.
One Republican lawmaker, Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, told VOA that he remained opposed after hearing Trump. Jones said the president simply called for passage of the repeal and “didn’t go into any detail on anything.”
“We’ve heard this before,” Jones said. “I’ve been here 22 years and I’ve heard that, just trust me and wait. That’s when you fall off the cliff.”
Jones said Trump warned the Republican lawmakers they could face stiff voter opposition next year as they run for re-election if they do not vote for the repeal they have long promised to carry out.
Obamacare ‘death spiral’
But House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “President Trump was here to do what he does best and that is to close the deal.”
Later, White House spokesman Sean Spicer declared, “President Trump and Congress will keep their promise to reform health care once and for all. These are truly a conservative set of principles we are fighting for.”
Trump, staking the early months of his presidency on meeting his campaign vow to overturn Obamacare, told the lawmakers this was their best chance to repeal the law they have railed against for seven years. The law added health insurance coverage for 20 million people but has been reviled by Republicans because it required all Americans to buy insurance policies or pay a penalty if they did not.
Some conservative Republican hard-liners have especially objected to the Trump-supported repeal plan, saying it does not go far enough in overturning the Obama law. To win more support, House Republican leaders late Monday released 43 pages of changes, including ways to provide more generous tax credits for people aged 50 to 64 and to accelerate the repeal of some Obama taxes imposed on wealthier taxpayers from 2018 to this year.
Although Trump has voiced his support for the repeal, passage of the legislation remains uncertain. No Democrat in the House has announced support for repealing Obamacare, leaving Republicans to find a legislative majority on their own. They cannot lose more than 21 of the 237 Republican votes in the House for the repeal to pass before the measure is sent to the Senate, where its fate remains uncertain.
At a political rally late Monday in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump told supporters, “This is our long-awaited chance to finally get rid of Obamacare. We’re going to do it.”
Trump and Ryan have contended Obamacare is in a “death spiral” because some major insurance companies have stopped selling policies to individuals, who, unlike most Americans, do not get coverage through their workplaces or government programs covering major costs for older people and the poor. Republican lawmakers calling for repeal also say that premiums have risen so much that policies or out-of-pocket health care costs are no longer affordable.
The independent Congressional Budget Office last week cast doubt on whether the Republican replacement plan will prove to work better than Obamacare, concluding that 24 million Americans will lose their coverage over the next decade if Trump’s plan is adopted.
Tom Price, Trump’s Health and Human Services chief, assailed the budget office’s conclusion, while opposition Democrats said it supported their contention that the Republican overhaul would hurt millions while benefiting wealthier taxpayers.
Capitol Hill correspondent Katherine Gypson contributed to this report