- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Trump administration on Sunday declared “we’re getting close” to having the votes needed to pass a health care overhaul bill in the Senate while reiterating that the president is open to a repeal-only measure if Republicans can’t agree on exactly how to replace Obamacare.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, said the White House expects a vote in the Senate after the July 4 recess.

“We’re getting close,” Mr. Short said. “People know this is a dramatic situation. Where we are is the president is continuing to make calls to members to get the Senate package across the finish line … We hope that we come back the week after recess and have a vote.”

The House already has passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to shelve the Senate version of that legislation after it became clear he didn’t have his full caucus on board.

Negotiations are ongoing to tweak the bill and get the 50 votes needed.

But deep divisions remain among Republicans, prompting the White House and some prominent GOP members to call for a bill that only repeals Obamacare. At a later date and possibly with the support of some Democrats, Congress would tackle replacement.

“If the replacement part is too difficult for Republicans to come together, let’s go back and take of the first step and repeal … That’s an option. Then at that point, if you’ve repealed it, you can come back with a replacement effort that’s more bipartisan,” Mr. Short said. “If this is the route we go, there’s that opportunity” for Democrats to support the replacement legislation.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, expressed similar sentiments Sunday.

“I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with the bill we have,” Mr. Paul told Fox News. “Let’s do clean repeal like we promised. I think we could get 52 Republicans for clean repeal.”

While no Democrats would vote for a clean repeal bill, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer last week said his party is open to working with Republicans on health care.

Other top Democrats also say they want to sit down with Republicans, suggesting it’s possible a bipartisan replacement bill could emerge.

“Work with us Democrats who are willing to meet you in the middle,” Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, said on Fox News. “I’m the most centrist, moderate person in the Senate they’re going to find that’s willing to look down, and sit down, and work on anything in a more progressive manner that basically fixes the problems we have.”

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