Trump planning Obamacare orders on day 1

As Obama and Pence huddle with their parties on the Hill, Donald Trump tweets that GOP must keep heat on Democratic 'clowns.'

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Vice President-elect Mike Pence told House Republicans that the Trump administration is working on executive actions to ease the transition off of Obamacare, but implored GOP lawmakers in a closed meeting to tell their constituents “the truth” — that Democrats are still to blame for any of the law’s failures.

It’s a dual-track message: Pence and President-elect Donald Trump want to show that they’re moving toward repeal, but also want to continue to lay the blame at Democrats’ feet.

The message comes as President-elect Donald Trump tweeted about the health care law, saying Democrats “own” any problems with Obamacare. In an interview with Politico Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans must fix Obamacare, signaling chaos will ensue if the law is repealed. Trump, in a Wednesday tweet, said “don’t let the schumer clowns out of this mess.”

Pence told Republicans in the closed meeting that the incoming trump administration is already working on executive orders to ensure a “smooth transition” out of Obamacare — but congress will still need to pass legislation to help in the process.

According to a GOP aide, the plan is to use a powerful budgeting procedural tool — called reconciliation — to speed the repeal process, a process that the Senate began yesterday. The expectation is that legislation will land on President Trump’s desk by late February.

“He said the effort to reform health care starts today,” according a lawmaker who was in the meeting with Pence. “President Trump will do what he can through executive action to make sure there is an orderly transition for the American people…and it will also require legislation and we will work together. And we will coordinate that. ”

While Pence huddled with Republicans, President Barack Obama was meeting with Democrats on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to discuss their own strategy on Obamacare.

Republicans seemed intent on avoiding any blame for problems that arise from any Obamacare repeal. In a series of Wednesday tweets, Trump warned fellow Republicans to not fall into the trap of taking ownership of the health law’s shortcomings.

The message comes as President-elect Donald Trump tweeted about the health care law, saying Democrats “own” any problems with Obamacare. In an interview with Politico Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans must fix Obamacare, signaling chaos will ensue if the law is repealed. Trump, in a Wednesday tweet, said “don’t let the schumer clowns out of this mess.”

Pence told Republicans in the closed meeting that the incoming trump administration is already working on executive orders to ensure a “smooth transition” out of Obamacare — but congress will still need to pass legislation to help in the process.

According to a GOP aide, the plan is to use a powerful budgeting procedural tool — called reconciliation — to speed the repeal process, a process that the Senate began yesterday. The expectation is that legislation will land on President Trump’s desk by late February.

“He said the effort to reform health care starts today,” according a lawmaker who was in the meeting with Pence. “President Trump will do what he can through executive action to make sure there is an orderly transition for the American people…and it will also require legislation and we will work together. And we will coordinate that. ”

While Pence huddled with Republicans, President Barack Obama was meeting with Democrats on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to discuss their own strategy on Obamacare.

Republicans seemed intent on avoiding any blame for problems that arise from any Obamacare repeal. In a series of Wednesday tweets, Trump warned fellow Republicans to not fall into the trap of taking ownership of the health law’s shortcomings.

Obama entered his meeting with Democrats, flanked by Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, shortly before 9:30 am and ignored a shouted question on whether Democrats should help republicans replace Obamacare.

Republicans meanwhile are walking a tightrope. Though they’re planning the immediate repeal of Obamacare, they’re still debating how long to preserve many of the law’s core elements to ensure that Americans covered by the law don’t face disruptions in coverage. Trump has yet to weigh in with a timeline, but Collins said he expected the president-elect to do so after he’s sworn in.

Collins also downplayed the significance of Pence’s meeting as a moment to steer the House’s Obamacare replacement strategy.

“This is not going to be a negotiation between Mike Pence and Paul Ryan,” he said.

Rather, he said, it will be a product of committee hearings and bipartisan talks among lawmakers.

“I think as this becomes a collaborative, interactive discussion, I think what comes forward will be almost unanimous,” he said, “because we’re going to thrash it out, kind of behind closed doors, in committee hearings.

“We can’t let perfection be the enemy of good,” he added.

Still, the fact that Pence was joined by a phalanx of key Trump aides underscored the apparent importance of Wednesday’s meeting. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and future counselor in the White House, was with Pence, along with Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs and Pence’s own chief of staff, Josh Pitcock.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday begins debate on a fiscal budget that will unlock a fast-tracking procedure known as reconciliation—a tool that Republicans will use to jam repeal though on a party-line vote.

Another topic that could rear its head in conference: Trump’s unwelcome tweet Tuesday knocking House Republican efforts to try to gut the oversight watchdog. The press and the public slammed the proposed house rule that essentially would declaw the Office of Congressional Ethics—then Trump put a nail in that coffin when he tweeted that lawmakers should have had their priorities focused elsewhere.

Republicans complained in an emergency conference session Tuesday that Trump shouldn’t have gotten involved in an internal House dispute — though many believed the pitch was diametrically opposed to Trump’s “drain the swamp mantra.”

About two hours after, House Republicans agreed to withdraw the OCE reforms.

“We have no jurisdiction over the ethics of the executive branch, and the executive has no jurisdiction over [the House],” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told reporters Tuesday, saying he was “a little surprised” Trump would weigh in on a matter of the House’s “internal deliberations.”

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