White House Signals Own Path on Health Care

WASHINGTON (CQ-Roll Call/TNS) -

The White House declined Wednesday to rule out that President Donald Trump will push his own plan to replace the Affordable Care Act rather than pursue one course with congressional Republicans.

When asked if there will be a single White House-congressional GOP plan, White House press secretary Sean Spicer left open the door that the president might roll out his own plan — no matter what lawmakers do. Minutes later, Spicer referred to “the president’s plan” when discussing how the administration intends to achieve one of its top campaign goals.

On Capitol Hill, since Trump was elected and the party kept the House and Senate, Republican lawmakers have celebrated an era of “unified” GOP governance. Spicer’s comments suggest the party lacks a unified approach to how to dismantle the health care law and replace it.

President Trump, during a meeting with senior aides about the federal budget just minutes before Spicer’s briefing, repeated his pledge to produce a health care plan next month. He said it should be rolled out “maybe mid-to-early March,” saying his White House will be “submitting something” to Congress “that I think people will be very impressed by.”

It’s unclear how GOP leaders like Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will approach such a submission. Will they develop their own plans, blend congressional ones with the White House’s, or simply work from the proposal of a president whom they need for other parts of their own agenda?

President Trump also signaled that he favors deep federal budget cuts, saying the government “must do a lot more with less.”

“The finances of this country are a mess, but we’re going to clean that up,” Trump told reporters, according to a pool report. He vowed to hold “everybody accountable for that,” although it was unclear exactly what that meant.

“We’re going to take this budget, which is, in all fairness, I’ve only been here for four weeks so I can’t take too much of the blame for what’s happened, but it is absolutely out of control,” the president said.

President Trump again vowed to renegotiate federal contracts, saying his administration already has “saved a lot — billions and billions of dollars.”

Trump met with chief of staff Reince Priebus, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, senior adviser Jared Kushner, chief strategist Steve Bannon, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and OMB officials Russ Vought and Emma Doyle over lunch to discuss the federal budget.