The White House says Trump is playing golf with Sen. Rand Paul and budget director Mick Mulvaney
The outing marks renewed attempts on health care
As President Donald Trump continues to pillory House conservatives who derailed efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, he took a different tack Sunday with one of the Republican senators who had been loudly egging them on, inviting Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to play golf at one of his eponymous courses.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham confirmed that Trump was playing golf with Paul as well as White House budget director Mick Mulvaney at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia. It was the President’s 14th trip to one of his courses in just over 10 weeks since taking office in January.
Grisham added that health care would be a big focus at discussions during the outing.
After the game was through, Paul told reporters he continued to be “very optimistic” about an agreement on repealing Obamacare, saying a deal was getting “closer and closer” and tweeting out the same.
The golf game with Paul came just more than a week after House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the American Health Care Act, a Trump-backed bill that would repeal and replace major parts of Obamacare, from consideration on the floor of the chamber. Paul was among the most outspoken opponents of the bill, which he derided as “Obamacare lite.”
The senator visited members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus to help shore up opposition to the bill. Trump has attacked the Freedom Caucus for its stance, calling out several of its members on Twitter.
In the immediate aftermath of the bill’s collapse, Trump said he was moving on from health care until Obamacare “explodes.”
But Sunday morning, shortly before Paul was seen joining the presidential motorcade, Trump tweeted that talks to repeal and replace Obamacare were still ongoing.
Separately, in an interview with the Financial Times done Friday and published Sunday, Trump said that, in the end, he didn’t want to hold a vote on the first bill. After House Speaker Paul Ryan came to the White House a week ago Friday to inform the President bill the bill did not have the votes to pass, House leadership pulled the legislation.
“I don’t like to lose, but that wasn’t a definitive day,” Trump said. “They are negotiating as we speak. I don’t know if you know. They are negotiating right now. There was no reason to take a vote. I said, ‘Don’t take a vote,’ and we will see what happens.
“But, one way or the other, I promised the people great health care,” Trump said. “We are going to have great health care in his country. Now, it will be in one form or another. It will be a repeal and replace of Obamacare which is the deal that is being negotiated now. And if we don’t get the … Freedom Caucus there, that would be fine. … [W]hen you have zero Democrats, zero, you need close to 100% of the Republicans”.
For years, as he contemplated a presidential run, Trump criticized President Barack Obama for his golf outings, but in the 10 weeks since taking office, the former real-estate developer and reality TV star has played on his own courses numerous times. Sunday’s trip marks the ninth weekend Trump has visited one of his namesake properties as President.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has defended the trips, saying Trump has talked about how to use the game to build relationships with people. Spicer has also pointed out that Trump has not played golf every time he visited one of his courses, instead conducting official business in the clubhouses, such as hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and meeting with some Cabinet officials and senior staff at his Virginia golf course.
The White House’s comments Sunday providing some details about the President’s game with Paul and Mulvaney came in contrast to its previous reluctance to discuss Trump’s time at his properties and on the golf course specifically.
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.