President Trump said on Wednesday he was “very happy” that some senators who held up Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017 have “gone on to greener pastures.”
Trump made the remarks during an hourlong speech at the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Washington. He has remained bitter about his failed efforts to repeal the Barack Obama-era law and directed most of his anger at the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who cast the deciding vote on the repeal in July 2017.
"We needed 60 votes. And we had 51 votes. And sometimes, you know, we had a little hard time with a couple of them, right?” Trump said. “Fortunately, they're gone now. They've gone on to greener pastures. Or perhaps far less green pastures. …They’re gone. I’m very happy they’re gone.”
It was initially unclear if Trump was referring to McCain, who died in 2018 after a battle with brain cancer, or to other Republican senators who held out their vote on the repeal.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley insisted Trump was not referring to the late Arizona senator.
“There’s been some confusion over who the president was talking about this morning,” Gidley said. “Some people in the media are speculating he was talking about Senator McCain. That’s absolutely ridiculous. He was talking specifically about Senators Corker and Flake.”
Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee expressed concerns about the “skinny repeal” option but ultimately voted for it. Flake and Heller did not seek reelection in 2018 and were replaced by Democrats.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the repeal, but both remain in the Senate. McCain has been the main target of Trump’s rage surrounding the failed repeal, and Trump has continued to attack the senator after his death.
Earlier in his speech, Trump mentioned McCain’s “no” vote without naming the senator.
“I’m keeping Obamacare alive because I felt I should do that,” Trump said. “We had a chance to terminate it, and a gentleman voted against it after campaigning for many years to repeal and replace.”
Trump bragged about his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, which he said he’ll pass if Republicans win majorities in the House and Senate in 2020. He hasn’t elaborated on what that plan will involve — and Republicans haven’t taken up the issue after the failed repeal in 2017.
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