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Senate Democrats offer to work with Trump on health care – but only if he ends attack on Obamacare

UPDATED: Wed., March 29, 2017

Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower to rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act Friday, March 24, 2017, in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)
Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower to rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act Friday, March 24, 2017, in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)
By Sean Sullivan Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Forty-four members of the Senate Democratic caucus have penned a letter to President Donald Trump signaling they are open to working with him on health care – but not before he ends his effort to attack the Affordable Care Act.

“Members of the Democratic caucus remain ready and willing to work with you on policies that would improve the stability of the individual insurance market,” the senators write in the letter shared with The Washington Post. “We ask that you begin the work of improving health care for millions of Americans by rescinding your January 20th executive order.”

Trump signed an executive order that day giving federal agencies broad powers to unwind regulations created under the ACA, which is also widely known as Obamacare.

“Your administration must commit to putting an end to all efforts to unravel the ACA, undermine the health care system, increase costs, or hurt patients, providers and families,” the letter tells Trump.

The letter comes after the House Republican effort to pass a bill to repeal and replace the ACA collapsed last Friday. Since that time, Trump and his aides have expressed openness to working with Democrats on health-care and other big legislative priorities.

But the president also blamed the failure of the House bill in part on Democratic intransigence. Not a single Democrat supported it. Many Republicans also opposed it.

“ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!” Trump tweeted Saturday. The Senate Democrats took issue with that statement.

“While we would welcome your sincere interest in bipartisan work to improve quality, lower costs, and expand coverage, we are concerned by your recent statement indicating it would be a good thing to make the ACA ‘explode,’” they write, adding, “Instead, we urge you to use your executive authority to support a stable, competitive insurance marketplace.”

Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage over the Democratic caucus in the Senate. Most divisive pieces of legislation require 60 votes to pass, due to Senate rules protecting the minority party. The letter serves as notice that Democrats have the numbers to block Senate Republicans from taking steps under normal Senate procedure to go after the ACA.

The four senators in the Democratic Caucus whose names do not appear on the letters are Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Angus King, I-Maine. All face reelection in 2018 – the first three in states won by Trump.

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