White House won’t commit to Trump support for Senate health care bill

The White House refused to commit on Thursday to whether President Donald Trump will support the Senate’s newly revealed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Trump has already called at least one senator to find out if he could be convinced to support the bill, and lawmakers said the White House offered advice during the drafting process. But on Thursday, the White House would not give the bill — which was forged largely behind closed doors and could be voted on as soon as next week — a ringing endorsement.

When asked at a press briefing if Trump supports the bill, principal deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders demurred. And on two of the most controversial issues at hand — cuts to Medicaid and to Planned Parenthood — Sanders declined to indicate if Trump has any firm position.

“He wants to bring the stakeholders to the table, have those conversations and we’ll get back to you,” Sanders said, painting the bill as a work in progress. “We’ve been talking about reforming health care for a number of years; I don’t think it’s moving too fast.”

Trump had called the House version of the legislation to repeal Obamacare too harsh. Asked by reporters earlier on Thursday what he thought of the Senate draft, he responded that it was "going to be very good."

"Obamacare is dead, and we’re putting a plan out today that is going to be negotiated," Trump said.

Vice President Mike Pence appeared supportive in remarks on Thursday. "We look forward to working with the Senate majority to move this legislation forward," he said.

But when pressed on Trump’s campaign-trail pledge to protect Medicaid — a program both the House and Senate bills curtail — Sanders said Trump “wants to protect that as much as possible.”

“I don’t believe that the president has specifically weighed in that it’s right to cut Medicaid,” Sanders said. “The president hasn’t weighed in specifically on any specific measure in this bill and as he said earlier today, this is a negotiation between the House and the Senate, we’re going to play a part in that.”

The Senate bill would phase out Medicaid expansion and make deep cuts to the program. The House bill, which Trump celebrated in a Rose Garden ceremony, would do the same.

When asked if he would sign a bill that funds Planned Parenthood — like the House version, the Senate bill cuts funding for a year — Sanders responded: “I’m not sure.”

Some GOP senators have voiced frustration about the process that produced the bill, and a number of Republicans have concerns about Medicaid, Planned Parenthood and other provisions. With a 52-48 seat edge in the Senate, Republicans can afford only to lose two votes if the bill is to survive.

Even with such a close margin, Sanders declined to say if Trump himself will be whipping for votes, as he did to push the House bill over the finish line.

“We’ll keep you updated as his involvement takes place,” Sanders said.

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