President Trump strikes optimistic tone on GOP health care effort

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, watching from New York as Senate Republicans mull their latest attempt at a health care reform bill, said Wednesday he was optimistic about the measure’s chances.

“I think it has a very good chance. I believe that Graham-Cassidy will do it the right way and it is doing it the right way,” Trump said, referring to the proposal drafted by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he supported the legislation since it included pre-existing condition coverage.

“I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does! A great Bill. Repeal & Replace,” his tweet said.

The measure actually loosens Obamacare’s regulations as it relates to pre-existing conditions, namely states could allow insurers to charge more based on a person’s medical history.

Trump, hungry to make good on his promise to reform President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, has urged Republican lawmakers to come together and strike a deal. His top White House aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, have worked with Capitol Hill negotiators but Trump has largely used his bully pulpit to push lawmakers from afar.

CNN Money: What’s in the latest Obamacare repeal bill?

On Wednesday, during his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, reporters pressed Trump about whether he thinks the new bill will pass.

After touting “tremendous support” for the bill, Trump added that he thinks this bill “is actually much better than the previous shot, which is very sadly let down.”

The most recent attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare failed in July after Republican Sens. John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins joined Democrats to oppose a health care reform measure. The failure was a major blow to Trump and caused him to publicly fume at Republicans on Capitol Hill.

As some lawmakers worked to strike a bipartisan deal, Graham and Cassidy worked together on a bill that has been decried by Democrats but embraced by most — but not all — Republicans.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN on Wednesday that it is the Kentucky Republicans “intention” to bring Graham-Cassidy to the floor next week, once lawmakers return from a long weekend.

Much like the last attempt to pass health care, the bill’s success rests with McCain, Murkowski and Collins, all of whom have expressed skepticism with the plan. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, has said he is already against the bill.

A senior White House adviser said Wednesday that the White House is relying heavily on Graham’s personal relationship with McCain — the two have been friends of decades — to sell the bill to the Arizona Republican.

“Lindsey’s personal relationship with McCain is really going to matter,” the adviser said.

But even the White House knows they don’t have the votes yes, telling CNN that they are “working towards it” but are hesitant to say the bill is a lock.

Trump has been unhappy with the pace of passing health care reform, telling lawmakers to send him something he can bill as repeal and replace, a key promise he made during the 2016 campaign.

“When I won I would go to the Oval Office, sit down at my desk and there would be a healthcare bill on my desk, to be honest, and it hasn’t worked out that way and I think a lot of Republicans are embarrassed by it,” Trump said.

Those expectations, though, are somewhat unrealistic, given the complexity of the issue and the array of opinions on health care within the Republican caucus.

On Graham-Cassidy, Trump concluded by saying “whether it happens or not, something is going to happen” because Obamacare has to go.

He did not say what that “something” would be, however.

“We think this has a very good chance,” he added. “At some point the Senate is going to be forced to make a deal. They are just about at that point right now because Obamacare is so bad.”