President Trump made a plea on Wednesday for his supporters to unite behind the Republican plan to overhaul Americans’ health care as the only way to squelch Democratic attempts to scuttle the plan. At the same time, facing resistance to the bill from within his own party, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said it would be refined and improved.
“We want Americans to be able to purchase the health insurance plans they want, not the plans forced on them by our government,” Mr. Trump told about 10,000 supporters at the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. He spoke against the backdrop of a giant American flag to a crowd dotted with red trucker caps bearing his signature slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
“We’re going to all get together, we’re going to get something done,” Mr. Trump said. “Remember this: If we didn’t do it the way we’re doing it, we’d need 60 votes, so we’d have to get the Democrats involved. So we’re doing it a different way, a complex way.”
“It’s going to be fine,” Mr. Trump added.
The remarks were a nod to the complicated and politically risky approach Republicans have taken in pushing through legislation to repeal the health care law. The House plan championed by Mr. Ryan is coming under strain amid resistance, both from conservative Republicans concerned it is too close to Obamacare and from moderates who fear it will provide insufficient coverage for Americans who lack health insurance.Continue reading the main story
Mr. Ryan, fighting to keep the measure on track, said Wednesday that he was making “some necessary improvements and refinements” to the package to answer the concerns, which intensified this week after the Congressional Budget Office released a report estimating that the legislation would increase the number of people without health insurance by 24 million by 2026.
“Now that we have a score, we can incorporate feedback to improve this bill, to refine this bill, and those kinds of conversations are occurring between the White House, the House and the Senate, and our members,” Mr. Ryan said.
Previously, the speaker had referred to the measure as a “binary choice,” suggesting that Republicans must accept what many of them see as a flawed bill or lose the opportunity to enact a health care overhaul.
Mr. Trump has thrown his full support behind the legislation but is plainly concerned that the arcane legislative process will prompt a backlash that could undermine his presidency.
“If we’re not going to take care of the people, I’m not signing anything,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday evening in an interview with Fox News. “I’m not going to be doing it, just so you understand.”
He said he considered himself “an arbitrator” for Republican factions warring over the bill, and, asked whether the measure was the best his party could offer, said, “I think we’re going to have negotiation.”
Mr. Trump made his case on health care as he prepared to unveil a budget on Thursday that is expected to slash scores of domestic programs and illuminate his vision for radically scaling back the government.
“We have proposed a budget that will shrink the bloated federal bureaucracy — and I mean bloated — while protecting our national security,” Mr. Trump said, to cheers from his audience.
But even as he sought to focus on his own agenda during the second campaign rally of his young presidency, Mr. Trump was being drawn into yet another controversy over his travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries. Just before he was scheduled to take the stage in Nashville, Mr. Trump learned that a district judge in Hawaii had blocked the second iteration of his executive order, and the president took the stage fuming about the setback.
“This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach,” Mr. Trump said during his speech. “We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court. We’re going to win.”
Wednesday was supposed to provide a respite for Mr. Trump from the questions and controversies that have consumed him in Washington in recent days. He left behind a capital astir over his allegation that President Barack Obama tapped his phone during the fall campaign, after a top Republican said there was no evidence to back up the claim.
As he strode to Marine One in the morning, he ignored questions shouted by reporters about the leak on Tuesday of a portion of his 2005 tax return, which returned the spotlight to his refusal, unprecedented among recent presidents, to release any portion of his tax returns.
Mr. Trump traveled to Detroit for a speech to automakers highlighting his move to halt Obama-era fuel efficiency standards, arguing that stripping away regulations would allow the manufacture of more cars in the United States.
His decision to hold a rally in Nashville suggested a desire to reach beyond his core supporters. While he won the state of Tennessee handily — claiming 61 percent in the state to Hillary Clinton’s 35 percent — he was deeply unpopular in Nashville, the seat of a largely urban county where he won only one-third of the vote.
But the event contained no glimmer of outreach. It was a raucous re-enactment of the fiery and hyperpartisan rallies that powered his 2016 campaign, complete with Mr. Trump vowing repeatedly to “build that wall” on the southern border — a refrain his supporters chanted loudly in response — and a dig at Mrs. Clinton. He also paused for several moments to allow shouts of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” to echo throughout the hall.
Before the rally, Mr. Trump paid homage to a former American president whom he has often invoked as a kindred spirit, stopping to lay a wreath at the tomb of Andrew Jackson at his home, the Hermitage, to honor Mr. Jackson’s 250th birthday. Mr. Trump, who has styled himself a populist even thought he advocates many policies sought by corporate interests, has often mentioned his admiration for Jackson, who is also considered a fighter for the working man.
“It was during the Revolution that Jackson first confronted and defied an arrogant elite. Does that sound familiar?” Trump told a crowd gathered in front of the Hermitage.