WASHINGTON (AP) — To believe or not to believe? That is the question, when it comes to President Donald Trump’s comments about what comes next on health care.
Since the Republicans’ coverage bill died in the House last week, marking the defeat of Trump’s first major legislative initiative, the president has sent conflicting signals about trying again and has left people guessing about whether his words on the subject are meant to be taken literally.
At a White House reception for senators from both parties and their spouses Tuesday night, he told them:
“I know that we’re all going to make a deal on health care. That’s such an easy one.”
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As Trump learned, health care is a hard one. So hard the legislation to replace “Obamacare” failed in the Republican-controlled House, without ever going to the Republican-controlled Senate.
So hard that in his late February news conference, Trump was moved to say: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
Sean Spicer, his spokesman, said Wednesday that Trump was only making a lighthearted crack at the reception.
“He was poking fun and making a joke,” he said.
Trump, normally not one to practice self-deprecating humor, delivered the comment in a serious tone, without a smile.
He also told the reception, regarding a second attempt to make a deal on health care, “I have no doubt that that’s going to happen very quickly.”
Whether Trump actually intends to try again soon remains to be seen.
After the bill was pulled without a vote, he indicated he would wait indefinitely, predicting that “Obamacare” would fall apart from problems in the marketplace, that Americans would cry out for a replacement and that lawmakers would then have more appetite for action. Likewise, House Speaker Paul Ryan said ruefully that the law would remain in place for the “foreseeable future.”
They’ve since suggested they may return to the subject promptly, despite a political climate that remains forbidding.
Trump’s spokesman did not describe a president in a rush.
“We’ll see,” Spicer said, “but I think the idea that the president has put out there is that if people want to float ideas and suggestions on how we can grow this vote and get to a majority, he’ll entertain them.”
Spicer said, “We’re not trying to jam that down anyone’s throat right now. It’s an ongoing discussion.”