President Donald Trump urged U.S. Republican senators on Friday to repeal Obamacare immediately if they cannot agree on a new health-care plan to take its place.
Struggling to get consensus in the party, Republican leaders have set Friday as the goal for working out changes to Senate legislation that would repeal extensive parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the law dubbed Obamacare that expanded health insurance coverage to 20 million people.
Their efforts were complicated on Thursday by a Congressional Budget Office report that said the Senate proposal would cut spending on government Medicaid for the poor by 35 percent come 2036.
"If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!" Trump wrote in an early morning Twitter post.
@realDonaldTrump If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican who has often clashed with Trump, welcomed the suggestion. Sasse said this week he was not satisfied with the Senate health-care legislation.
"Sounds great, Pres. @realDonaldTrump," Sasse wrote in a response on Twitter. "We are agreed. We need to break the logjam."
Overturning Obamacare, former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature domestic legislation, has been a goal of Republicans since the law came into effect, and has become a priority since January, when the party assumed control of the White House as well as both chambers of Congress. Trump pledged in his campaign to overturn a law that Republicans view as a costly government intrusion.
However, a simple repeal is unlikely to draw the support of Republican moderates who are needed to help pass a bill in the Senate.
A repeal was the Republicans' original intent for Obamacare. But the prospect of not having an alternative in place raised worries that insurance markets would collapse and people not insured under Obamacare would be left with few or no options for coverage, hitting the poor especially hard.
The House of Representatives passed its version of a health-care bill last month, only after striking a balance between the center of the party and the right wing.
A bill produced by the Senate Republican leadership has exposed similar party divisions, with moderates concerned about the numbers of people who would lose their uninsurance, and conservatives saying it should erase more of Obamacare.