President Donald Trump, faced with the latest congressional failure to undo Obamacare, said on Wednesday he was working on an executive order to expand access to health insurance and would negotiate with Democrats for a legislative solution by next year.
Senate Republicans abandoned their latest effort to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act on Tuesday after failing to secure sufficient support.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said Congress would return to the healthcare issue in the first few months of 2018 and said he had the votes to get it done. In the meantime, he said he would work with Democrats to make the effort one that had support from both parties.
“I am … going to meet with Democrats and I will see if I can get a healthcare plan that’s even better,” he said. “So I will negotiate with Democrats but from the Republican standpoint we have the votes. We’ll vote in January, February or March.”
The executive order Trump is eyeing would allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines through so-called health associations, a measure advocated by Republican Senator Rand Paul.
“I am considering an executive order on associations and that will take care of a tremendous number of people with regard to healthcare and I’ll probably be signing a very major executive order where people can go out, cross state lines, do lots of things and buy their own healthcare,” Trump said.
He said the order was being finished now.
Republican leaders decided not to put their latest version of Obamacare repeal to a vote on Tuesday when it became clear they did not have enough support, despite their Senate majority.
The bill’s sponsors vowed to try again but face steeper odds after Saturday, when special rules expire that allow them to pass healthcare legislation without Democratic support.
Trump, in two tweets early Wednesday morning, said, “We will have the votes for Healthcare but not for the reconciliation deadline of Friday, after which we need 60.”
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that one of the votes they needed was of a senator who was in the hospital, who he confirmed to be Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
Republicans control the Senate by a 52-48 margin.
Congressional leaders said on Tuesday they were moving on to tax reform legislation. But the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn, said on Wednesday that lawmakers would continue to work on healthcare. He said the authors of the most recent Obamacare repeal bill, Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, hoped to increase support for their proposal.
Cornyn said he supported the efforts of Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray to reach a bipartisan deal to repair Obamacare, but warned he would not favor “a bailout for insurance companies.”
Alexander and Murray said Tuesday they were ready to resume talks.
The president, who during his presidential campaign promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, also called via Twitter for Congress to get rid of its “Filibuster Rule,” a procedural tactic that allows the minority party to block action unless a 60-vote majority can be reached.
(additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Heavey, Makini Brice and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Jeff Mason and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott)