WASHINGTON ― Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Sunday that the White House has been reaching out to Democrats and welcomes their input on how to replace Obamacare. If true, those conversations were very recent ― as of Wednesday, leading Democrats said the White House hadn’t contacted them to talk health care at all.
Republicans will need Democrats’ help down the line as they seek to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, one of former President Barack Obama’s top policy achievements. But they have a long way to go, and their current approach hasn’t won them any support from Democrats.
That’s especially true as Republicans make concessions in the House to win over conservative members, as ABC’s “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos noted during his interview with Price on Sunday.
Price acknowledged it will be challenging to come to an arrangement that pleases both sides.
“It’s a fine needle that needs to be thread, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
He said they “sure hope” they will be able to work with Democrats on the third piece of their three-pronged approach. Republicans plan to pass a bill gutting Obamacare’s coverage expansion, which could lead to millions more people being uninsured, through a process that wouldn’t require Democratic support.
But to finish the job of rewriting the law’s regulations — something conservatives say is necessary to bring down health insurance premiums — Republicans would need 60 votes in the Senate, which Republicans can’t get to without some Democratic support. Some Republicans, including Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have warned that the three-part approach to repealing and replacing Obamacare won’t work because Democrats won’t support it.
Price said they hope Democrats will cooperate, because “they know that the current law doesn’t work.”
“We’ve been reaching out to individuals in both the House and the Senate on the other side of aisle and look forward to their ideas and hopefully their input and their support as we move forward,” he said.
“So we’re asking men and women of goodwill in the legislature, in the legislative branch, to come forward and work with us to solve the challenges that the American people see in their health care system, again so we get a health care system that works for them,” Price added.
The Huffington Post reported on Wednesday that the Trump administration had not reached out to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) or Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to discuss health care. A spokesman for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is often targeted to vote with Republicans, had not heard from Trump to discuss general health care reform efforts either, according to his spokesman.
A White House spokesperson said at the time that Trump has discussed aspects of reform with some Democratic lawmakers, and that they will press members of the party to support their efforts.
“Obamacare is a disaster that has hurt the middle class,” the aide said, “and we call on all Democrats to put the American people first.”