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Ryan wary of Trump deal with Democrats if GOP fails on Obamacare

House speaks Paul Ryan of Wis. discusses the Republican agenda as he faces reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 30, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
House speaks Paul Ryan of Wis. discusses the Republican agenda as he faces reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 30, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
By Margaret Talev and Billy House Bloomberg

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Paul Ryan is warning Republicans to unify around a new push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or risk tempting President Donald Trump to cut a deal with Democrats that runs counter to Republican goals.

Ryan, in an interview with CBS that aired Thursday, said he fears that “if we don’t do this, then he’ll just go work with Democrats to try and change Obamacare. And that’s not, that’s hardly a conservative thing.”

“I don’t want that to happen,” Ryan said of a Trump partnership with Democrats, saying he favors a “patient-centered” approach while Democrats want “government running health care. The government shouldn’t tell you what you must do with your life, with your health care. We should give people choices.”

House Republicans are considering making another run next week at passing the health-care bill they abruptly pulled from the floor last Friday in an embarrassing setback to their efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama’s signature health-care expansion. That’s a shift from last week, when Trump and Republican congressional leaders said they’d move on to other issues, including a tax overhaul, after the long-awaited bill was pulled 30 minutes ahead of a scheduled floor vote.

Two-week recess

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who helped derail the bill, have been talking with some Republican moderate holdouts in an effort to identify changes that could help win their support for the measure. The House is scheduled to begin a two-week recess April 7, and Republicans would like to return home having passed some version of a health-care measure that only days ago was declared dead.

Democrats have indicated they may be receptive to working with the White House if Republicans focus on reforming Obamacare.

“Many Republicans just want repeal,” Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, told MSNBC Thursday. “If they will take repeal off the table, Democrats will slide the chairs up to the table.” Durbin said Senate Democrats already are talking to Republicans willing to set aside the idea of repeal and that on some level in terms of talks “the effort’s underway.”

Durbin said he believes the White House is “more receptive now” to bipartisan negotiations after last week’s defeat in the House.

Two Republican lawmakers, describing plans on the condition of anonymity, said Wednesday that House leaders would consider working into the weekend, although it was unclear what changes would be made to the Republicans’ health bill.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated the health plan would come up again “as soon as we figure it out and get the votes.” McCarthy said nothing is currently scheduled and didn’t indicate how leadership would resolve divisions between the Freedom Caucus and moderates in the so-called Tuesday Group.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, has been negotiating with colleagues on a compromise.

“There’s a real commitment among members he’s been speaking with to not give up and move expeditiously toward a path forward,” his spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, said. “But he doesn’t want to constrain himself to artificial deadlines like ‘before recess.’”

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