WASHINGTON — Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., challenged President Trump on Wednesday to invite all 100 senators for a “summit” to hash out a bipartisan health care bill.
“President Trump, I challenge you to invite us — all 100 of us, Republican and Democrat — to Blair House to discuss a new bipartisan way forward on health care in front of all the American people,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
He added that Democrats are “genuinely interested” in coming together with Republicans on health care, as long as Republicans abandon tax cuts for wealthier Americans and cuts to the Medicaid system.
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Since the Senate Republicans’ health care effort suddenly stalled Tuesday, Schumer has been needling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to scrap his bill and instead sit down with Democrats and work to improve the existing system. McConnell is reportedly attempting to hammer out a deal by Friday and set a vote on the bill when the Senate returns from its recess in July.
If McConnell can’t get his caucus in line, the Republican leader warned, he might have to “sit down” with Schumer as well.
Any real compromise seems distant at this point, though a handful of Republican and Democratic senators have shown a willingness to explore bipartisanship in the past. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bill Cassidy, R-La., met with more centrist Democrats Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., in May before giving up on those talks.
For his part, McConnell has largely been wielding the specter of working with Schumer as a threat to get his fractious caucus in line. McConnell needs 50 of the 52 GOP senators to agree on a deal, and so far, about 10 Republican senators — moderates and conservatives — have refused to get in line.
“It’ll be dealt with in one of two ways,” McConnell said Tuesday after emerging from a meeting with Trump. “Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo, or the markets will continue to collapse and we’ll have to sit down with Sen. Schumer. And my suspicion is that any negotiation with the Democrats would include none of the reforms that we would like to make, both on the market side and the Medicaid side.”
Schumer, who is known as a dealmaker, would have a lot of leverage if McConnell failed to broker a deal within his own party and came to him ready to talk. As McConnell warned, any agreement with Schumer would likely not contain the changes to Medicaid and insurance exchanges backed by conservative lawmakers in both the Senate and the House.
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“We’re the first to say we want to sit down and talk to you about it, but we are not going to be in a position where we say, ‘OK, only 15 million people will be uncovered, we’ll support that bill,’” Schumer said Tuesday. “That’s not the type of compromise we’re talking about. They really need some structural revision.”
Working with Schumer would mean Senate Republicans had not only failed to repeal Obamacare — as they had promised to do eight years running — but even worked with Democrats to prop it up.
The leader of a conservative group who didn’t wish to be quoted discussing the Senate negotiations said he couldn’t imagine McConnell cutting a deal with Democrats because such a capitulation would anger the GOP base. “It’s one thing working with Nancy Pelosi to raise the debt ceiling — working with Chuck Schumer to stabilize the Obamacare markets is something else,” he said. “I think that would hurt Republicans badly.”
But Trump himself could theoretically shake up that calculus. If he were to take Schumer up on his offer, or showed interest in working with Democrats to fix problems in the exchanges, Republicans would feel pressure to fall into line. But the president didn’t seem interested in Schumer’s offer Wednesday, telling reporters, “He hasn’t been serious…He just doesn’t seem like a serious person.”
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