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Republicans Take On Health Care, Again


You know, Steve, as you said, we don't know what French voters are going to do but President Trump seems to think that he knows what might happen. He tweeted this morning, as you said, that this attack is going to have a huge effect on this presidential campaign. So I want to bring NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith into the conversation here. And, Tam, what do you make of that from Trump?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: You know, there's a long-standing tradition of American presidents staying out of other country's elections. One thing that I would note about this tweet from President Trump is that he doesn't mention any candidate by name.

GREENE: Right.

KEITH: He isn't explicitly saying who he thinks would benefit from this.

GREENE: Well, let's turn to politics in this country. I mean, we have Republicans releasing a health care proposal. And I feel like I have said those words before because it's happened before. President Trump is behind it and he said he would - he says he really never gave up on the last one that failed.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is a great bill. This is a great plan. And this will be great health care. It's evolving, you know, there was never a give-up. The press sort of reported there was, like, a give-up. There's no give-up, we started. Remember, it took Obamacare 17 months.

GREENE: Tam, wasn't there a give-up?

KEITH: Well, we reported there was a give-up because the president said he was moving on. He said he was moving on to tax reform. And House Speaker Paul Ryan, at the time that this bill was pulled without a vote, said Obamacare is the law of the land for the foreseeable future. However, there have been a number of recent, like, bubbles, things that have bubbled up where Republicans in Congress or the White House have said, oh, it's not really dead. It is totally not really dead.

We're still working on it, we swear - like right before they went home for the congressional recess because there were going to be all of these town halls and they wanted to be able to say that they were working on something. Now, there's some other deadline that's coming up. And it's, you know, sort of an artificial deadline but the 100 days mark in the Trump presidency is coming up at the end of next week.

GREENE: Right.

KEITH: The Trump administration is seemingly feeling some pressure there. And, you know, there are a lot of polls that are being done to mark that time. And there's a new Politico Morning Consult poll that asked people to grade President Trump on various things, including health care. Only 9 percent of people would give him an A for how he's handled health care.

GREENE: Only 9 percent. But, I mean, if he is hoping to get that grade up, you would think that the White House and Republican leaders think that there would be something different in this new bill that would bring some of those conservatives in the party to their side to support it. I mean, I know we haven't seen any draft legislation yet but what could be different here?

KEITH: Yeah. There are some bullet points. And the basic idea here is that the Conservative Freedom Caucus has been negotiating with some members of the more moderate, what's called a Tuesday Group, to make changes to the bill that died but didn't totally die. And those changes would allow states to waive some of the requirements like covering various preexisting conditions and essential health benefits and some of these other things that would allow states to seek waivers.

The idea is that this would sort of split the difference. The challenge is that that is something that is - has been a hang-up for some Republicans in Congress. But the bigger hang-up for many moderates is Medicaid, that the repeal and replace legislation would ditch the expansion of Medicaid. And there are a lot of moderates who say that would simply hurt their constituents.

GREENE: Well, and speaking of deja vu...


GREENE: ...There's another deadline coming. And that is a deadline to keep the federal government funded. Could we be heading for another federal government shutdown?

KEITH: Yeah. So the hundred days mark also happens to be the day that the deadline for passing a - some sort of a stopgap spending measure to keep the government funded and open, you know, talk about deja vu, as you say. So going along for weeks now, it seemed like there was going to be - this was going to be a no-drama situation.

The appropriators, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been working on this very quietly for weeks. Republican leaders didn't want to push a fight on something like funding for the border wall that President Trump wants. Well, now all of a sudden, the White House is saying we need this border funding, we need this wall funding. And suddenly, it's starting to look much more dramatic than it did even a couple of days ago.

GREENE: All right, lots to follow in Washington as well as Paris this morning. NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks so much, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome.


Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.