- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

After a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare ran aground in the Senate, President Trump spent Wednesday talking energy with Indian chiefs, hosting members of the Chicago Cubs and meeting with victims of illegal immigrant crime to push passage of Kate’s Law.

The quick pivot from health care, at least on his public schedule, fueled criticism that the president was not adequately engaged in pushing the repeal-and-replace bill in the Senate.

Mr. Trump acknowledged the tough time Republicans are having on the health care bill while leading a roundtable discussion about energy policy with tribal, state and local officials.

“We’ll see what happens. We’re working very hard. We’ve given ourselves a little bit more time to make it perfect. That’s what we want to do,” he said of the bill.

A scheduled vote this week in the Senate as postponed until after the Independence Day recess. Republican support for the bill hemorrhaged after the Congressional Budget Office projected 22 million Americans would lose coverage under the legislation.

“This has a chance to be a great health care at a reasonable cost. People can save a lot of money. We get rid of the mandates, we get rid of so much — got rid of a lot of the taxes,” said Mr. Trump. “All of the bad parts of Obamacare are gone. Essentially, it’s a repeal and replace.”

Later, while hobnobbing with members of the 2016 Wold Series champion Chicago Cubs, Mr. Trump again talked up the prospects for a new health care bill.

“Health care is working along very well,” he said. “We’re gonna have a big surprise. We have a great health care package.”

He declined to elaborate when pressed by reporters.

After the Senate postponement was announced Tuesday, Mr. Trump met at the White House with most of the Senate Republican conference to seek a path forward of the bill, which is being reworked and will be resubmitted to the CBO for a new score.

Before support crumbled, Mr. Trump was aggressively making the case that Obamacare was a disaster and American families needed to be saved from skyrocketing premiums and dwindling insurance options under the law.

Vice President Mike Pence had been on the Hill cajoling support. White House officials participated in drafting the bill with Senate GOP leaders behind closed doors.

However, the president and his team have yet to make a case for the benefits of the Republican health care plan.

Some Republican lawmakers said Mr. Trump could have been more directly involved from the start.

“This president is the first president in our history who has had neither political nor military experience,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Maine Republican who is a holdout. “Thus, it has been a challenge to him to learn how to interact with Congress and how to push his agenda forward.”

Republican strategist Douglas Heye, who was a top adviser to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, agreed that getting the health care bill passed would take “a full-court press from the administration.”

“That said, having some pre-planned events doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve taken their eye off the ball,” he said. “There is plenty of time between now and when the Senate returns for the administration to make its case to anyone on the fence.”

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump was fully engaged and had not given up on the process.

“As somebody said before, I would never underestimate this president. If he is committed to getting something done, he will,” she told reporters at the White House.

Mrs. Sanders said the president remained confident that a repeal-and-replace bill would reach his desk.

“It’s really simple. Republicans have been talking about doing this for a number of years and they are committed to getting it done,” she said. “You are talking about it as if it is over. It is certainly not. This is part of the process.”

Mrs. Sanders also said the president was not concerned about artificial deadlines but was focused on creating the best health care system for the American people.

“It’s about getting it done,” she said. “They are committed to getting something in that works.”

David Sherfinski and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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