Trump made the same mistake as Obama on health care, former Reagan aide says

  • Presidents Trump and Obama made the same mistake by not being more involved in the details of health care legislation, according to Mary Jo Jacobi.
  • Jacobi also says Trump's short attention span is a problem for the administration.

President Donald Trump made the same mistake as his predecessor by not being more involved in the details of health-care legislation, a former assistant Commerce secretary told CNBC on Thursday.

Trump and then-President Barack Obama should have been more engaged in the legislative process, said Mary Jo Jacobi, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan and a member of the George H.W. Bush administration.

"He just left it to the House and Senate," she said, referring to Obama. "President Trump has made a similar mistake with what may or may not be 'Trumpcare' leaving it to the House and Senate."

Referring to Congress, she said: "They've had 7½ years to come up with a replacement once they repeal. Now they haven't repealed, they haven't replaced and it doesn't look like they're going to do either."

Obama signed an overly complex bill that was likely to be unworkable in the real world, but at least he got a bill, Jacobi later added.

"The lesson is that the executive and legislative branches need to work together on big affairs of state to ensure protection of the public interest and a workable outcome," Jacobi said in an email.

The president has been trying to salvage health-care reform after the Senate bill collapsed earlier this week due to a lack of support. Trump took to Twitter, telling senators they must keep their promise to America to fix health care.

On Wednesday, he told GOP senators they should stay in Washington during their August recess to work on health care.

Sen. John McCain's diagnosis of brain cancer has created more problems for Republicans in their bid to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to James Pethokoukis, an economic policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

"They were already having trouble coming up with 50 votes and now that just got a lot harder," the analyst told CNBC.

"At this point, I think the most likely scenario is they don't have enough votes for either and Obamacare stays."

Pethokoukis says many Republicans want to move on from health care to tax reform, but he warns this will not be easy.

"What I think happens there is they don't get massive tax reform, they don't massive tax cuts. They'll get a tax cut, it'll be a temporary tax cut, (which is) probably not the best thing for economic growth," he said.

Unpredictable Trump?

Jacobi said Trump's short attention span was a problem for the administration.

"He'll do something really good and then step all over the message on Twitter," she told CNBC.

"My advice to him would be to keep his promises and then have miles to go before he tweets, paraphrasing an old American poem. He just can't get it together and because he can't get it together, the White House and the Cabinet agencies can't get it together either. They're always catching up."

Jacobi also criticized Trump's unpredictability, which makes it harder for businesses to plan.

"He changes his mind, he changes his position. He's changed his mind on health care three times in the last 18 hours," she said.

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