WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that he had called the top Senate Democrat to probe interest in working on a “great” healthcare bill to replace Obamacare, after his fellow Republicans’ failed attempts to roll back the law.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump had told him during the phone call on Friday that he wanted to try again to repeal and replace the law formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
“I told the president that’s off the table,” Schumer said in a statement. “If he wants to work together to improve the existing health care system, we Democrats are open to his suggestions.”
Republicans fell short several times this year in their drive to repeal former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment, a promise they had campaigned on for seven years. Trump has been frustrated by the failure, openly taunting Republicans as “total quitters” and “fools” this summer over their inability in the Senate to replace Obamacare.
“I called Chuck Schumer yesterday to see if the Dems want to do a great HealthCare Bill,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “ObamaCare is badly broken, big premiums. Who knows!”
Axios first reported Trump’s call to Schumer on Friday.
Schumer pointed to bipartisan efforts by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray to repair Obamacare as “a good place to start.”
Alexander pulled out of the talks last month as a new Republican bill to repeal Obamacare gained momentum. After that bill collapsed, Alexander said he would again consult with Murray.
Although Democrats have been mostly united against Trump’s agenda, there is some precedent for a bipartisan deal. Last month, Trump sided with Democrats in a surprising debt limit deal that blindsided Republicans and left conservative groups aghast.
But there are still wide policy differences between Democrats and Trump. His administration on Friday undermined requirements under Obamacare that employers provide insurance to cover women’s birth control.
A new rule will allow businesses or non-profit organizations to lodge religious or moral objections to obtain an exemption from the law’s mandate that employers provide contraceptives coverage in health insurance with no co-payment.
A Democratic aide said the Trump administration would have to abandon such efforts before it could reach a healthcare deal with Republicans.
“Particularly after the birth control decision yesterday, the administration has to stop sabotaging the law before anything real can happen,” the aide said on condition of anonymity.
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)