WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — President Donald Trump urged House Republicans to move swiftly on passing a budget bill during a conference call Sunday, clearing the way for what he described as an historic push for tax cuts.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both joined the House GOP call in which Trump called on members to adopt the budget passed by the Senate this week, so that they can move on to passing his tax reform plan.
Trump told the members they were on the verge of doing something historic, according to one Republican official on the call, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss publicly what was intended as a private update for members.
Another GOP aide familiar with the conversation said that Trump told the members again and again that the party would have a steep price to pay in next year's midterm elections if they failed to pass his plan, which would slash the corporate tax rate to 20 percent and double the standard deduction used by most average Americans. The president also said multiple times that, beyond the looming elections, his plan was the right thing to do for country, the person said.
The Senate last week passed a budget that includes rules that will allow Republicans to get tax legislation through the Senate without Democratic votes and without fear of a Democratic filibuster.
Republicans are desperate to rack up a legislative win after a series of embarrassing failures that have come despite the fact that the party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.
On the call, House Speaker Paul Ryan told members he hoped to pass a revised Senate budget bill this week to increase the changes that tax reform can be enacted by the end of the year.
Trump will also work to rally support for the plan on the Hill Tuesday at a lunch with Senate Republicans.
Congress also continues to wrestle with the health care system.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor — if Trump makes clear he supports it. A proposal by two senators - Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington - would extend for two years federal insurance payments that Trump has blocked. But Trump has offered mixed signals, alternately praising and condemning the effort - confusing Democrats and Republicans alike.
Asked whether he would bring the bill to the floor, McConnell said on CNN's "State of the Union" that he was waiting "to hear from President Trump what kind of health care bill he might sign."
"If there's a need for some kind of interim step here to stabilize the market, we need a bill the president will actually sign. And I'm not certain yet what the president is looking for here, but I will be happy to bring a bill to the floor if I know President Trump would sign it," the Republican said. He added of Trump: "I think he hasn't made a final decision."
The plan unveiled last week likely has 60 votes in the Senate, mostly from Democrats, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday urged McConnell to bring it to the floor "immediately, this week."
"This is a good compromise," Schumer said on NBC's "Meet the Press." He predicted it would pass "by a large number of votes" and that the president would ultimately sign it to avoid the blame for rising insurance premiums.
"If Republicans think that if premiums go up they're going to avoid the blame, if Senator McConnell thinks that, he's wrong," Schumer said.
Trump at first suggested he supported the temporary fix as he continues to hold out hope for the passage of legislation that would repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have repeatedly failed to achieve. But White House officials said later that Trump would only sign an interim bill that also lifts the tax penalties that Obama's health care law imposes on people who don't buy coverage and employers who don't offer plans to employees. The White House also wants provisions making it easier for people to buy low-premium policies with less coverage. Top Senate Democrats reject those demands.
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who was also spotted at Trump's Virginia golf course Sunday, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that Trump doesn't want to back a plan "without also getting something for folks who are being hurt."
"And I think the criticisms you've heard this week are like, 'Look, I'm okay with doing a deal.' This is the president now. 'But I'm not getting enough for the folks who are getting hurt. So give me more by way of associated health plans. Give me more of the things that we know" we can do for folks back home to actually help them,'" Mulvaney said.
"I think there's actually a pretty good chance to get a deal," he added. "It's just Murray-Alexander in its current form probably isn't far enough yet."
McConnell, in his interviews, also but pushed back against former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's efforts to recruit candidates to challenge Republican incumbents who support McConnell's leadership, arguing that what Republicans need is candidates who can win.
"Look, this is not about personalities. This is about achievement. And in order to make policy, you have to actually win the election," he said on Fox News. "And some of these folks that you've been quoting, as I said are specialists on nominating people who lose."
AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner contributed to this report.
Associated Press 2017