US & Canada

Trump urges senators to replace 'mean' House healthcare bill

US President Donald J. Trump shakes hands with House Speaker Paul Ryan before a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, USA, 06 June 2017. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Trump had previously called the House Bill, pushed by Speaker Paul Ryan, a "great plan"

Donald Trump has urged Republican senators to devise a more generous healthcare bill, in contrast to what he called a "mean" bill passed in the House last month.

Mr Trump had called the House bill a "great plan" when it passed by four votes, but it was heavily criticised and was unlikely to get through the Senate.

Mr Trump told 13 senators at a lunch that their version should be "kind".

Repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was a key Trump poll pledge.

Sources present at the White House lunch meeting told Politico that Mr Trump said senators needed to "pass a bill that Republicans are able to more easily defend".

"That may be adding additional money into it," he reportedly said.

Mr Trump's remarks on the "mean" House bill are in stark contrast to his previous public position.

Although the bill gave Mr Trump his first legislative win, it was criticised by both Democrats and Senate Republicans.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Mr Trump stepped up his criticism of Obamacare this week

It was passed before being fully assessed - and a later assessment from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office concluded some 23 million people would lose health insurance over the next decade.

One Republican Senator, Bob Corker, said at the time the bill had "zero" chance in the Senate.

Instead, senators decided to "start fresh" on drafting their own legislation.

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Media captionMr Trump's latest comments are in contrast to his reaction at the time the House healthcare bill passed

That new bill is being crafted in private by the Senate's Republicans.

The 13 senators invited to lunch at the White House were a mix of conservative and moderate Republicans.

One attendee, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, old Reuters news agency that there still was a lot of work to do before legislation can be unveiled.

"The total bill hasn't been resolved," he said.

While Mr Trump's Republican party has a majority in both the House and Senate, his margin in the Senate is considerably smaller - just three Republicans voting against the bill would prevent it from passing.

Sources at the meeting told Politico that Republicans "risk getting savaged in the 2018 midterms" if they failed to repeal Obamacare, after campaigning against it for seven years.

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Media captionTrump's battles with Obamacare - in his own words

During his election campaign, Mr Trump consistently criticised President Obama's healthcare policy, vowing to "repeal and replace" the legislation.

The president first attempted to push through a bill in March, but withdrew it at the last minute when House Speaker Paul Ryan told him he would not have the minimum 215 votes needed.

The debacle was seen as a major defeat for the new president, who blamed Democrats for not supporting his bill.

The failure led to a new version of the bill allowing states to opt out of several of its provisions, and allow higher premiums for some patients.

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