With cameras rolling, Trump tries to bully Republican senator into supporting Trumpcare

“He wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”

CREDIT: Fox News screengrab
CREDIT: Fox News screengrab

During remarks to reporters following a Republican health care luncheon at the White House on Wednesday, President Trump threatened to end Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-NV) tenure in the US Senate if he doesn’t vote in favor of Trumpcare.

Alluding to the announcement Republican senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) made on Monday night that they wouldn’t support the latest version of Trumpcare, Trump said he “was very surprised when I heard that a couple of my friends” didn’t support a bill that would strip coverage from more than 20 million Americans.

“They might not be [my friends] very much longer, but that’s okay,” Trump said, as chuckles broke out.

Trump went on to address Heller, who came out against Trumpcare late last month and was sitting directly to his right during the luncheon.

“You didn’t go out there, this was the one we were worried about and you weren’t there, but you’re gonna be, you’re gonna be. He wants to remain a Senator, doesn’t he? Okay,” Trump said, as Heller’s chuckle turned into a groan.

“And I think the people of your state, which I know very well — I think they are going to appreciate what you hopefully will do,” Trump added.

Trumpcare would actually have a devastating impact on low-income Nevadans, more than 276,000 of which have received coverage thanks to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. The most recent version of Trumpcare would completely phase out the Medicaid expansion by 2024 and cost the state billions of dollars in federal funds.

Heller, who is up for reelection next year and is a top Democratic target, alluded to these realities when he held a news conference late last month and announced he wouldn’t support an earlier version of Trumpcare.

From Slate’s piece about that presser:

“It’ll be very difficult to get me to a ‘yes,’” Heller said. He noted that there “isn’t anything in this bill that would lower premiums,” and that to say otherwise would be a “lie.” He said he wouldn’t vote for a bill that that “takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans,” which is sort of the bread and butter of Republican health policy. It did not sound like a lengthier phaseout of the Medicaid expansion would satisfy Heller the way it might satisfy, say, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. He would want Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion more or less preserved.

In short, Trumpcare would be very bad for Heller’s constituents, and that’s why he’s been opposed to it. But Trump — who changed his health care position three times over a 36-hour period ending Wednesday morning — doesn’t seem to be concerned about that.

At other points during his remarks to his reporters on Wednesday, Trump claimed the Senate Republican health care bill will reduce out-of-pocket health care costs — it won’t — and said people with pre-existing conditions will have better care under Trumpcare (that’s a lie).

“Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America you’re fine with Obamacare,” Trump said. A recent Washington Post poll showed Obamacare is preferred to Trumpcare by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

Trump’s comments on Wednesday come a day after CNN reported that the Trump administration is recruiting primary challengers to take on another Senate Republican who hasn’t committed to voting for Trumpcare and is up for reelection next year, Jeff Flake (AZ).