Trump takes victory lap, vows to end ACA as Dems seek full Mueller report
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump took a victory lap on Capitol Hill Tuesday, emboldened by the end of the special counsel’s Russia probe, even as Democrats demanded the release of Robert Mueller’s full report and intensified their focus on health care and other policy disputes.
The Affordable Care Act took center stage for both parties after a season of congressional business that’s been mostly about Trump, including the investigations and the government shutdown. Democrats believe health care is a big reason they were able to flip the House to their control last fall, and Trump told Republican lawmakers that figuring out the GOP version of the law will be a priority ahead of the 2020 elections.
Radiating a sense of vindication, Trump strode into the Senate Republicans’ lunch flanked by party leaders. GOP senators applauded.
“It could not have been better,” Trump said of the summary of the Mueller report by Attorney General William Barr, which did not find the president colluded with Russia over the 2016 elections. But Trump, too, was quick to turn to policy and the future, claiming, “The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care. You watch!”
Inside the meeting, he urged Republicans to figure out a way to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and replace it with a GOP version, a major Trump goal that has eluded the party during the first years of his presidency.
“I was a little surprised he came out of the chute in health care,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., after the meeting “He wants us to try again.”
“He’s in a very good mood. He’s in a good form,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. “He’s always high energy. He had a little extra today.”
Trump’s trip to Capitol Hill came right after his administration said late Monday it would not defend the Affordable Care Act in a court challenge — and as the House Democrats, led by Pelosi, were unveiling a sweeping measure to rescue the program, also known as “Obamacare.”
At her own closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, Pelosi urged rank-and-file Democrats to “be calm” and focus on policy promises that helped propel them to the House majority last fall. That means advocating for a robust policy agenda to improve health care and pay while conducting the oversight of the Trump administration many voters want.
“Let’s just get the goods,” Pelosi said, according to an aide in the room granted anonymity to discuss the private caucus meeting.
The advice was reinforced by Obama, who counseled freshman Democrats at a reception Monday night.
Obama advised the newly elected lawmakers to listen to constituents — and also identify issues they feel so strongly about that they’d be willing to lose their House seats in fights over them, according to multiple people at the private party.
The former president recalled that as a state legislator he gave priority to his constituents, which helped keep his popularity high enough in Illinois that he could advocate for bold policy ideas.
The challenges for Democrats come as Trump has made clear he’s fired up to go on offense against those who propelled the narrative that he colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.
Even before he arrived in the Senate, Trump tweeted his message about health care. When he walked into a cloistered parlor to lunch with Republicans, they applauded him.
Ahead of the Senate meeting, Trump was in a combative mood. He tweeted against the “mainstream media” as “corrupt and FAKE” for pushing the “Russian Collusion Delusion,” previewing attacks on other opponents to come.
He has promised to go after those who did “evil” things.