What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

How Trump is trying to sell Republicans on the health care bill

Time is ticking before a crucial House vote on the bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan are trying to close the deal, pushing for votes and privately telling members their jobs are at risk if they don't pass a repeal bill. Their efforts come after pages of policy amendments were added in order to woo key groups. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It's been an all-day interrogation for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch at his Senate confirmation hearing. The federal appeals judge fended off Democrats' efforts today to ferret out his views on hot-button issues.

    He also worked to show independence from the man who picked him under friendly questioning from Republican Lindsey Graham.

  • SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.:

    Had you ever met President Trump personally?

  • NEIL GORSUCH, Supreme Court Nominee:

    Not until my interview.

  • SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

    In that interview, did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v. Wade?

  • NEIL GORSUCH:

    No, Senator.

  • SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

    What would you have done if he had asked?

  • NEIL GORSUCH:

    Senator, I would have walked out the door. It's not what judges do. They don't do it at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and they shouldn't do it at this end either, respectfully.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We will have extensive excerpts from and analysis of today's hearing in just a moment.

    But, first, the other big story of this day, a full-court press by the president and the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to pass a new health care bill that aims to replace major components of the current law, the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

    Time is ticking before a crucial vote in the House on Thursday, and Republicans know there may not be any Democrats who will support it then.

    Our Lisa Desjardins reports from Capitol Hill.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Witness the art of trying to close the deal.

  • QUESTION:

    Do you have the votes, Mr. President?

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    Think so.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    President Trump at the Capitol pushing for votes on the GOP health care bill, telling members privately their jobs are at risk if they don't pass a repeal bill.

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer summed up the argument later.

  • SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary:

    Yes, I think there's going to be a price to be paid, and it's going to be with their own voters. And they're going to have go back and explain to them why they made a commitment to them and then didn't follow through.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    As the White House pushes, GOP leaders at the Capitol are sounding more enthusiastic.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: I just got to say, editorial, the president just came here and knocked the ball out of the park. He knocked the cover off the ball. It is a big moment, and I think our members are beginning to appreciate just what kind of rendezvous with destiny we have right here.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    But destiny requires votes. To win them, Speaker Ryan and his team did more than invite a president; they changed their bill, adding 21 pages of policy amendments last night geared to win key groups, for conservatives, some Medicaid changes, like letting states add a work requirement for the program and giving states the option of a block grant Medicaid payment that would likely cut the program.

    Finally, a new limit from Republicans: No new states could join the Medicaid expansion. Add to that, again, for conservatives, faster tax cuts. This new version would repeal of all Obamacare taxes immediately, instead of next year.

    But those changes didn't go far enough for some in the conservative Freedom Caucus, like Ohio's Jim Jordan.

  • QUESTION:

    Congratulations on the …

  • REP. JIM JORDAN, R-Ohio:

    Oh, it wasn't as good as we hoped.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    He is still a hard no, as the Freedom Caucus seems split.

    This is why last night's changes also offer something to a different group: moderates. For them, Republicans added roughly $85 billion in tax deductions for health care, with the idea that the Senate will target that money more to seniors.

    As a result, Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey is now a yes.

  • REP. TOM MACARTHUR, R-N.J.:

    The speaker, the majority leader of the Senate and the president have all agreed that they would publicly make it clear that's the only purpose for which they will support the use of the $85 billion that we put into the bill.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    But it's close. Freshman Dan Donovan is still thinking.

  • REP. DAN DONOVAN, R-N.Y.:

    I'm not saying yet.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    It's close enough that GOP leaders are looking for votes from small groups, like members from Upstate New York. Last night, Republicans added a provision saying billions in county Medicaid costs must be picked up by New York State.

    Representative Chris Collins pushed the idea.

  • REP. CHRIS COLLINS, R-N.Y.:

    It shifts the burden from the local taxpayer back to the state government, which is how it's handled in every other state in the nation.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    But New York Democrat Joe Crowley balked.

  • REP. JOE CROWLEY, D-N.Y.:

    This will significantly hurt individuals in New York who could face a multibillion-dollar Medicaid shortfall if this amendment were to be included.

  • SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader:

    Their bill is such a miss.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Another key New York Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, railed against the bill and aimed squarely down Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

    President Trump, who has tried to put his name on nearly everything in his career, ties, steaks, water, doesn't want his name on this bill. Well, the president himself is here on the Hill today to sell the bill to House Republicans. Make no mistake. This is Trumpcare.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Democrats hope this health care vote sinks some of these Republicans in two years and the president in four. But Mr. President Trump is selling the opposite message.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    There are going to be adjustments made, but I think we will get the vote on Thursday.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    … that Republicans need this bill to survive.

    The vote remains very close at this hour. And tomorrow could be a key day. House leadership sources tell me they expect a kind of updated score from the Congressional Budget Office on their bill. Remember, that initial conclusion from the CBO on the first bill came up with the forecast that 24 million Americans fewer would have insurance under the House GOP plan.

    We will see if the changes affect that conclusion — Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Lisa, that would be interesting if the Congressional Budget Office came out with a different analysis.

    Also striking today, the president's warning to lawmakers that they could lose their seats, as you were reporting. How close does the White House and do the Republican leaders on the Hill think this is?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    I spoke with a spokeswoman from House Speaker Paul Ryan's office.

    And she said to me — I said, is it close? She said, yes, absolutely. We know that it's close. But we're pushing forward to that Thursday vote.

    Let's talk about the more kind of concrete numbers, Judy. Essentially, House Republicans can lose 21 of their members, maybe 22 on this vote, and still get it across the finish line.

    I spoke to some members of the Freedom Caucus, like Tom Massie. He told me his personal whip count has 30 hard no's, way more than the 21. It's very fluid right now. Are those hard no's or not? Very difficult to say, Judy. But it's incredibly close, if not leaning away from the direction where House Speaker Ryan wants it to go.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And then, Lisa, as you just reported, this afternoon, Lisa, the White House called in more moderate Republicans to try to persuade them. What are the arguments they're using with them?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    This is part of the full-court press. They want those moderate votes.

    They are telling those moderates that they believe that this whole plan will, in fact, make health care better for those in their districts by bring down premiums, offering more choices. It's the kind of core Republican arguments we have seen, but they have got to stare straight in the face of many of these moderates who have heavy Medicaid populations, lots of folks on Medicaid, and they are concerned about what will happen to them.

    I talked to Charlie Dent. He is one of those moderate members concerned about Medicaid. He walked out of that White House office. I spoke to him. And he said he still has the same reservations that he had going in.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Lisa, finally, if they are able to get it through the House, what are the early indications in the Senate?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    There's trouble there too, Judy.

    Right now, we know of at least two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Mike Lee, who say that they are no's on this exact bill, Mike Lee restating his emphatic opposition in the past day. And they can't lose any more Republicans than that.

    But not just talking about moderates. Some core members of the Republican leadership over there like Bob Corker are questioning this bill and questioning what it would mean for health care in their states, so, a lot of questions, not just here, but also on the Senate side.

    Remember, Judy, this is on a very fast pace. The idea is to go through House Rules tomorrow. They would have a long day on the House floor Thursday. Then, the earliest it could get to the Senate is maybe even for a vote on Tuesday. That's the best-case scenario for Republicans, maybe getting this whole thing to the White House next week.

    But, Judy, right now, it also looks like a worst-case is possible, which you and I are standing here talking about the House vote still next week. All to be determined.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And a lot of moving parts.

    Lisa, thank you very much. I know you're watching it all. And we will be talking to you more about it. Thank you, Lisa.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest