01:02 - Source: CNN
Trump reverses health care tactics with a tweet

Story highlights

The Senate's stab at "repeal and replace" gets more time

The President's latest pitch is a change from the trail

CNN —  

President Donald Trump is frustrated. His promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare is on the rocks, again, thanks to divisions in the Senate Republican ranks, and emboldened Democrats are circling the wagons to protect the law.

On Friday morning, he awoke to fling a new wrench into already tense negotiations. “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now,” Trump tweeted, “they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!”

The message represented yet another twist in the long series of contradictions that mark his ever-shifting prescription for health care.

In January Trump told the New York Times that he wanted Obamacare upended immediately and a replacement prepped and ready “quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.” The remark effectively dismissed out of hand a suggestion – much like the one he made on Friday – that Republicans could “repeal and delay,” or take their time in crafting a new plan.

It wasn’t the first time Trump very clearly rejected the notion of any health care layover.

“We’re going to do it simultaneously,” he said during a long interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” after the election. “It’ll be just fine. We’re not going to have, like, a two-day period and we’re not going to have a two-year period where there’s nothing.”

But the most glaring difference between what Trump touted on the trail and what the Senate bill might deliver involves Medicaid, a program he pledged to protect, along with Medicare and Social Security, while warning that other Republican candidates might not.

“The Republicans who want to cut SS & Medicaid are wrong,” he tweeted on July 11, 2015, a few weeks into his campaign. In May of that year, before announcing his candidacy, Trump told The Daily Signal, a conservative website, “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.”

The irony, two years on, is that Republicans – in the House and Senate – are indeed pushing to cut Medicaid spending. And the President seems to be going along. Trump has denied the spending cuts equal a cut to the program, but as CNNMoney’s Tami Luhby made clear in her recent report, “the Congressional Budget Office says the Senate bill would reduce federal spending on Medicaid by a total of $772 billion by 2026, and the House’s legislation by $834 billion over that time.”

The CBO, a nonpartisan agency, has estimated that the House and Senate bills would, respectively, lead to 23 and 22 million people losing insurance – in comparison to the numbers expected under current law – over the next ten years.

Trump, though, famously told the Washington Post in mid-January that his Obamacare replacement would effectively provide universal coverage.

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” he told reporters. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

Except that, according to the plans Republicans are now pushing, it will. Trump must sense this as he has twice now referred to the GOP health care plan as “mean.” When former President Barack Obama derided what he called its “fundamental meanness” in a Facebook post, Trump actually responded by reminding Fox News that he used the language first.

“Well, (Obama) actually used my term, ‘mean.’ That was my term,” Trump said. “Because I want to see – and I speak from the heart – that’s what I want to see, I want to see a bill with heart.”

Those comments marked a jarring about-face from his initial reaction to its passage on May 4, when he called the bill “a great plan” during a celebratory gathering with House Republicans in the White House Rose Garden.

Senate Republicans, however, facing the prospect of an unpopular vote much like their House colleagues nearly two months ago, have revolted against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal. All of which set the stage for Trump’s endorsement Friday of repealing Obamacare and then replacing it later – the very thing he so publicly rejected months earlier.