Trump's 100th day in office falls on Saturday
Priebus was pushing to pass health care reform before then
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus made a “big push” for a vote in the House to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act over the last two weeks, sources close to the process told CNN.
The “100 Days” milestone approaching, Priebus was “aggressive” in his calls to Capitol Hill in search of converts on the controversial legislation, the sources said.
One source likened the chief of staff’s efforts to securing a “100 Days” trophy for President Donald Trump, and a senior GOP congressional aide said “definitely Reince” when asked who has been the most aggressive in trying to whip up support for a vote.
“Priebus had really made the push to get the vote. To get this done. Just in terms of the political side – the political win,” a House GOP aide said.
The failure to produce the votes necessary to repeal Obamacare before Trump hits 100 days in office is likely to be seen as a setback for Priebus, a narrative that is rejected by White House officials.
House Republican leaders pulled similar “repeal-and-replace” legislation last month after it failed to attract enough support, despite intense lobbying from the White House.
“Reince has been very aggressive,” White House spokeswoman Lindsey Walters said about the chief of staff’s outreach to lawmakers.
“It could happen this week. It could happen next week,” Walters added, arguing there was never a concerted effort to pass the bill before what she called a “false deadline” of 100 days in office.
“These talks have produced results,” Walters said.
The White House and House Republican leaders did make some progress over the last two weeks, winning the critical support of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which announced its backing of the Obamacare repeal legislation after changes were made to the bill.
But those alterations alienated moderate GOP lawmakers, like Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania.
“Too many people are going to be losing coverage,” Dent said on CNN’s “New Day.”
A Republican operative close to much of the Pennsylvania GOP delegation complained the White House and the House Freedom Caucus were making matters worse by watering down the Affordable Care Act’s protection of Americans with pre-existing conditions.
“If we (expletive) this up, we’re all going to pay” in 2018, the operative said about the Obamacare repeal effort.
The latest push to replace the Affordable Care Act nearly led to a breakthrough in the House, sources close to the process said. But there was simply not enough support to risk yet another dramatic failure, a political disaster averted for the White House at the “100 days” mark.
“We’re not going to do it until we have the votes,” a key GOP aide said. “There are certain legislative realities that we have to deal with.”
The White House’s efforts on Capitol Hill to pass health care reform legislation has involved all the top players in Trump’s White House, but the latest push saw Priebus as the most senior White House official leading the charge.
Vice President Mike Pence was on a foreign trip and Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, who has been heavily involved in health care talks, shifted his sights to budget negotiations in recent weeks.
But a House GOP aide stressed that chief strategist Steve Bannon has also remained involved in trying to move the ball forward on health care, staying in close touch with the conservative wing on the Hill.
“Bannon pushed for this, too,” the aide said.
But the sense on Capitol Hill was that the pressure this time around was not as intense as the White House’s first attempt to pass health care, when House GOP leadership ended up pulling the bill from the floor.
“They did not really turn the screws. The pressure this week compared to the pressure the week the bill got pulled from the floor, I would not put it at the same level,” the aide said.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.