Here’s where things stand heading into Day 49 of the Trump administration:
President Trump’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare is experiencing setback after setback.
Can the president circumvent powerful opposition to the Republican proposal by pitching it directly to the American people?
That’s the bet the Trump administration is making less than a week after House Republican leaders unveiled their plan to revise the Affordable Care Act and enact a more conservative vision for the U.S. health-care system.
The White House announced that Trump is preparing to launch a “full-court press” on behalf of the bill, including stakeholder meetings, local media interviews and travel by officials in his administration.
Their goal is to rally Trump supporters to the bill’s side and use that pressure to produce “yes” votes among intransigent Republican lawmakers.
Whether this will happen is one question. Whether it can outweigh the vast array of interests that have aligned against the bill is another.
As of Wednesday, opponents of the Republicans’ American Health Care Act include Democrats, conservative lawmakers and activist groups, and organizations that represent U.S. hospitals, physicians and retirees.
Supporters of the bill include House Republican leaders, the White House, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various smaller health-care-industry groups.
Regardless of the conflict, work in Congress continues on the bill. Two House committees started to consider it Wednesday, with the goal of passing it through the lower chamber within a few weeks.
Before it comes to the floor, however, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) will have to shore up some of those crucial “yes” votes among conservatives.
“I have no doubt we’ll pass this, because we’re going to keep our promises,” he told reporters Wednesday.
WHITE HOUSE ATTACKS NONPARTISAN BUDGET ANALYST
One of the unusual circumstances surrounding the release of the health-care bill is the absence of a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.
Normally, the nonpartisan CBO would release an assessment of the bill’s impact on the federal budget for lawmakers to consider as they weigh the greater merits of the legislation.
The Trump administration said Wednesday that estimate will come next week — perhaps as early as Monday.
In anticipation, the White House spent part of Wednesday undercutting the CBO’s credibility, calling it an inaccurate forecaster of health-care cost and coverage figures.
“If you’re looking at the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters. “I mean, they were way, way off the last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected Obamacare.”
It is worth noting that along with the estimated impact on the federal budget, the CBO will also produce a forecast of how many people might lose health insurance under the GOP’s health-care plan.
This is an area where Republicans could be vulnerable.
Asked Wednesday how many fewer people would have health insurance under the bill, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the Trump administration is “looking at [the question] in a different way.”
“Insurance is not really the end goal here, is it?” Mulvaney told MSNBC, contrasting the GOP plan with the Affordable Care Act.
That law “was a great way to get insurance and a lousy way to actually be able to go to the doctor,” he said. “We’re choosing instead to look at what we think is more important to ordinary people.”
ABOUT THOSE WIRETAPPING CLAIMS . . .
It seems like weeks ago that Trump accused former president Barack Obama of tapping his phone lines at Trump Tower before the election.
The White House has declined to explain or add context to that accusation, which Trump presented without evidence. What it has done is asked Congress to investigate.
Now, lawmakers are doing just that.
Top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are asking the Justice Department to hand over any applications for warrants and court orders related to “Trump, the Trump campaign, or Trump Tower.”
The two members — Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) — said that if wiretapping took place, that would be significant.
“We would take any abuse of wiretapping authorities for political purposes very seriously,” Graham and Whitehouse wrote in a letter to Justice Department officials.
“We would be equally alarmed,” they added, “to learn that a court found enough evidence of criminal activity or contact with a foreign power to legally authorize a wiretap of President Trump.”
Follow the author @eliseviebeck.