- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2017

The White House said Monday that President Trump is “absolutely” serious about working with Democrats on health-care legislation and other priorities after conservative Republicans balked at a GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“We learned a lot through this process,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. “If we can come up with resolution on a way to move forward, we’ll certainly entertain that. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of health care.”

Mr. Trump criticized the conservative House Freedom Caucus for failing to support the administration-backed bill last week, saying they were allowing Obamacare to remain in place and permitting federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Democrats in the House were united in opposition to the plan put forward by House Republican leaders and the administration, saying Obamacare should be fixed, not repealed.

Asked if working with Democrats would require a serious course correction by the administration, Mr. Spicer said, “Sure.”

“The president’s willing to listen to these individuals,” he said, adding that the White House is looking for a plan that can receive support from a majority of House lawmakers.

A moderate Republican lawmaker at the center of last week’s negotiations on health care, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, said Monday that Mr. Trump would be well served by shifting his attention to passing an infrastructure bill as he looks to recover from the GOP’s failure to deliver on its promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

He said the president likely learned from the setback over health care that he is better off building a bipartisan consensus than trying to appease the far-right members of the House GOP caucus.

“I would recommend they pivot to infrastructure now because that issue I think has the best opportunity to develop some sort of bipartisan coalition in the House and the Senate,” Mr. Dent said on CNN’s “New Day.”

Mr. Spicer suggested the likelihood of reaching out to Democrats was increasing.

“The president is eager to get to 218 [votes in the House] on a lot of his initiatives, whether its tax reform or infrastructure,” Mr. Spicer said. “There’s a lot of things and I think he’s going to be willing to listen to other voices on the other side to figure out if people want to work with him to get these big things done to make Washington work to enhance the lives of American people then he’s going to work with them.”

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, Texas Republican, said Monday the Senate is free to lead the way on health care, after House leaders failed to rally their troops around a plan that can avoid a Democratic filibuster in the upper chamber.

Mr. Brady and the White House are eager to pass massive tax cuts, even if the same forces that doomed the Obamacare effort — united opposition from Democrats and divided Republicans — could threaten the effort.

The plan is expected to call for lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, down from 35 percent, and to cut taxes for the middle class and every income level.

The administration still hasn’t made a commitment on the House GOP’s border-adjustment tax proposal, which would tax imports and exempt exports, raising more than $1 trillion that could be used to offset tax cuts.

Mr. Brady, however, said the administration and House GOP conference would land on the same page.

“The Trump tax plan and House Republican plan started at 80 percent the same, I think it’s grown to 90 percent or better,” he said. “I think it’s critical for the White House and Republicans in Congress to agree on pro-growth tax reform together, and move forward together as well.”

Mr. Trump has blamed Democrats for not supporting the health-care effort, but Mr. Spicer said the president was talking about Democratic leaders, such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, instead of other Democrats.

Mr. Spicer cited a meeting that the president held last week with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on infrastructure, education and other issues as an example of Mr. Trump’s eagerness to work with Democrats.

Tom Howell Jr. and Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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