Donald Trump orders senators to skip holiday to replace Obamacare
US president also attends electoral integrity commission as he repeats claim of voter fraud
US president Donald Trump speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
US president Donald Trump has ordered Republican senators to postpone their summer recess if necessary to agree a healthcare plan, despite continuing opposition from senators on a replacement plan for Obamacare.
“People should not leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we give our people great health care,” Mr Trump said as he hosted Republican senators for lunch at the White House. “We’re close, very close . . . We have to hammer this out and get it done.”
Describing Obamacare as “a big lie” that came “directly from the president”, Mr Trump said that any senator who votes against the Republican bill is “really telling America you’re fine with Obamacare”.
“For seven years you promised the American people that you would repeal Obamacare. People are hurting. Inaction is not an option. And frankly I don’t think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan,” he said.
Mr Trump also appeared to suggest that senators who did not support the bill could lose the administration’s support in next year’s midterm elections. Referring to Nevada’s Dean Heller, who opposed the bill and is up for re-election next year, Mr Trump smiled: “And he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”
While some Republicans’ welcomed the White House’s belated effort to rally support for the healthcare bill, there were few signs that sceptical senators would be prepared to back the healthcare reform proposal as it stands. Republican senators were due to meet on Wednesday evening to discuss the healthcare strategy. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he intends to proceed a motion on a “repeal-only” bill early next week, but at least four senators have expressed their resistance to this suggestion, which would delay a decision on a replacement for Obamacare for another two years.
Earlier in the day, the president attended the first meeting of the electoral integrity commission, a body set up by the Trump administration in the wake of the presidential election to examine allegations of voter fraud. Mr Trump has repeatedly argued that Hillary Clinton only won the popular vote because of illegal voting, claiming, without any evidence, that up to five million illegal votes were cast in the election.
The federal government has ordered states to submit voting data to the commission, but most have refused to comply.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr Trump said that “any form of illegal or fraudulent voting . . . and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped.”
He also criticised state officials that had refused to submit information.
“One has to wonder what are they worried about,” he said. “People would come up to me and express concern about voter inconsistencies and irregularities which they saw in some circumstances having to do with very large number of people.”
Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s contentious travel ban received both a boost and a setback on Wednesday. The Supreme Court voted by six to three to reject the Trump administration’s request that it clarify a court in Hawaii’s definition of “close relationship”, which would allow family members, including grandparents, of people living in the United States to enter the country.
The decision effectively lets the Hawaii ruling stand, allowing grandparents and other relatives of those living in America to visit the country. However, the court put on hold the ruling by the Hawaii court that refugees with links to refugee resettlement programmes in the US could enter the country, in a win for the Trump administration.
Mr Trump’s travel ban has been the subject of numerous court decisions since he first signed a controversial executive order in January halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
A revised version of the ban was published in March but it too has been subject to several court cases.