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  1. Florida Politics

Trump says Republican senators 'look like fools' after health bill's failure

President Donald Trump departs Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Md., on Friday after returning from Long Island, N.Y.
President Donald Trump departs Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Md., on Friday after returning from Long Island, N.Y.
Published Jul. 29, 2017

President Donald Trump on Saturday scolded Congress for looking "like fools" and threatened to cut lawmakers' health insurance in a broadside a day after the Senate refused to pass a bill to repeal the nation's health care law.

In a series of Twitter posts that began shortly before 7 a.m. and continued into the afternoon, Trump also specifically targeted Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the majority leader — even as the president demonstrated an uncertain understanding of the legislative process.

Trump began by criticizing the Senate's filibuster rules, under which he predicted "many great Republican bills will never pass," including health care legislation.

"Republican Senate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party, allows 8 Dems to control country. 200 Bills sit in Senate. A JOKE!" Trump wrote.

It was not clear why he was focused on the filibuster rule, a parliamentary delay tactic that requires 60 votes to overcome. He might have been referring to the broader implications of having to use a Senate reconciliation process as a workaround, and the inability to make major policy changes without getting 60 votes.

Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate. A proposal this past week to repeal portions of the health care law, as long demanded by Trump, required a simple 51-vote majority to pass and still failed.

"Mitch M, go to 51 Votes NOW and WIN. IT'S TIME!" the president said on Twitter. "Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don't go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time......"

A few hours later, Trump escalated his attack on lawmakers by taking aim at their own health care plans. "If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!" he wrote on Twitter.

The president has sought for months to end federal subsidies for insurance markets. And as recently as Friday, staunch conservatives have demanded the end of a special subsidy for House and Senate lawmakers, and their staffs, through a District of Columbia insurance exchange, instead of a system specifically for federal employees.

In a statement Saturday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and the minority leader, said that health care costs would rise for millions of Americans should the federal subsidy for insurance markets be scrapped.

"The president ought to stop playing politics with people's lives and health care, start leading and finally begin acting presidential," Schumer said.

Trump's repeated criticisms of Senate process also have rankled the Republican leaders.

Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for McConnell, declined to comment on Trump's posts. "If the leader issues any statements, we'll be sure to pass along," she said.

McConnell's former chief of staff, Josh Holmes, cited Trump's tweets Saturday as he sardonically suggested a "search for the idiot who keeps putting the president on irrelevant and counterproductive crusades."

McConnell changed the filibuster rules to allow all presidential nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority, and he extended that to allow Neil Gorsuch, Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, to be confirmed as well.

But historically, and facing increasingly narrow elections that can flip control of the Senate every few years, most senators have opposed permanently jettisoning the rule that allows the minority party to indefinitely obstruct something that has majority support. McConnell has made clear he doesn't support such a move, as have other members of the Republican caucus. That means that even if he wanted to, he could not end the filibuster on his own.

The president on Saturday also cited a Fox and Friends report that claimed Russia was behind an investigation that last year produced a dossier about alleged unseemly incidents in Trump's past. He said the Fox report showed that "Russia was against Trump in the 2016 election" and again blasted the several continuing federal investigations into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia as a "witch hunt."

Late Friday, the White House announced that Trump would sign legislation that limits his power to lift sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. The White House had initially resisted the bill.

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