Trump tells senators House health bill 'mean' - reports

2017-06-14 08:09
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

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Washington - President Donald Trump told Republican senators Tuesday that the House-passed health care bill he helped revive is "mean" and urged them to craft a version that is "more generous," congressional sources said.

Trump's remarks were a surprising slap at a Republican-written House measure that was shepherded by Speaker Paul Ryan, and whose passage the president lobbied for and praised. At a Rose Garden ceremony minutes after the bill's narrow House passage on May 4, Trump called it "a great plan".

The president's criticism, at a White House lunch with 15 GOP senators, also came as Senate Republican leaders' attempts to write their own health care package have been slowed by disagreements between their party's conservatives and moderates.

Trump's characterisations seemed to undercut attempts by Senate leaders to assuage conservatives who want restrictions in their chamber's bill, such as cutting the Medicaid health care program for the poor and limiting the services insurers must cover. Moderate GOP senators have been pushing to ease those restrictions.

Facing expected unanimous Democratic opposition, Republicans will be unable to pass a Senate bill if just three of the 52 GOP senators vote "no".

Trump's comments were described by two GOP congressional sources who received accounts of Tuesday's White House lunch. They spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal a closed-door conversation.

Their descriptions of Trump's words differed slightly.

One source said Trump called the House bill "mean, mean, mean" and said, "We need to be more generous, more kind". The other source said Trump used a vulgarity to describe the House bill and told the senators, "We need to be more generous."

Two other congressional GOP officials confirmed that the general descriptions of Trump's words were accurate.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment, telling reporters aboard Air Force One Tuesday evening, "We don't comment on rumours or private conversations."


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