President Trump says negotiators are continuing to work and "getting very close" to a deal
The seating arrangement around Trump during the meeting appears to have been strategic
President Donald Trump says he is a master of the “art of the deal,” but does he need to be as close as possible to those he is trying to strike a deal with?
Republican senators gathered at the White House on Tuesday afternoon for an impromptu meeting with the President after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would be postponing the vote on the health care bill until after the July 4 recess. Nine Republican senators have said they will not vote for the bill and many of those opposing the current version were at the meeting.
President Donald Trump said negotiators are continuing to work and “getting very close” on a deal and that Obamacare is “melting down as we speak.”
“We are going to talk,” Trump told reporters during the meeting. “We are going to see what we are going to do. We are getting very close.”
The seating arrangement around Trump during the meeting appeared to be strategic, with many of the undecided or “no” vote senators sitting closest to the President.
Sitting immediately to the left of Trump was Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a noted moderate who has been on the fence about the health care bill for quite some time.
Earlier Tuesday, Collins took a dig at the President, suggesting Trump’s lack of political experience is partly to blame for the GOP’s struggles to pass the legislation.
“It has been a challenge to him to learn how to interact with Congress and how to push his agenda forward,” Collins told reporters Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the delay on the vote was reported.
When she announced she had accepted the President’s invitation to the White House on Tuesday, Collins explained her reasoning for her stance on the bill:
“I will say that I have so many fundamental problems with the bill that have been confirmed by the (Congressional Budget Office) report that it’s difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact of the bill.”
The Congressional Budget Office on Monday predicted that 22 million people will lose coverage if the Senate bill becomes law. After that prediction, Collins tweeted her opposition.
Next to Collins was Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada. On Friday, Heller announced his opposition to the bill in its current form.
“It’s simply not the answer,” Heller said at a news conference alongside Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval in Las Vegas. “And I’m announcing today that in this form, I simply will not support it.”
He said it is a “lie” that the bill would lower health care premiums.
“There isn’t anything in this bill that would lower premiums,” Heller said.
Almost immediately after Heller’s statement, the pro-Trump group America First Policies ran ads for 12 hours against the Nevada Republican over his public opposition.
The 30-second narrated television ad depicted Trump and Heller – and did not mince words: “Call Sen. Heller. Tell him America needs him to keep his promise: Vote ‘yes’ to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
The ad was pulled Tuesday evening.
To the immediate right of Trump sat Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, another moderate who has said she has concerns about the health care bill as it stands.
“I don’t have enough data in terms of the impact to my state to be able to vote in the affirmative. So I’m trying to get the information. … This is big stuff, and so making sure that we get it right is something that I have said is an imperative,” Murkowski told CNN in an interview on Monday.
After the Congressional Budget Office score was released, prompting multiple Republicans to express doubts about the legislation or reiterate that they would not vote for the bill in its current form, Murkowski said she and her fellow senators should have time to examine the numbers and understand how the bill would impact their constituents before rushing to a vote.
“If you say, well, CBO numbers don’t matter, let’s look at the numbers that you don’t think matter. But it really does make a difference,” Murkowski told CNN’s Dana Bash. “And these numbers that we’re talking about, these are men and women, these are our families that are being impacted. So let’s please get it right.”
Two seats over from Murkowski was Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, another moderate GOP senator from a swing state. Gardner said he is still reviewing the 140-page bill but has specific demands before he can commit to voting in support of the bill.
After the bill was made publicly available Thursday, Gardner told reporters, “We need to learn more and get the information and numbers behind it. …That’s not a no. It’s not a yes. We have to look at the numbers.”
Other senators who have proclaimed their opposition, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, were also in attendance.