Trump lashes out at McCain

President Donald Trump arrives for a rally in South Carolina. Evan Vucci, AP.

Washington (AP) — Unwilling to concede defeat on a bedrock GOP promise, President Donald Trump on Saturday tried to sway two Republican holdouts on the party's last-ditch health care hope while clawing at his nemesis who again has brought the "Obamacare" repeal-and-replace effort to the brink of failure.

Trump appealed to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a possible "no" vote, to swing around for the sake of Alaskans up in arms over high insurance costs, and suggested that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul might reverse his stated opposition "for the good of the Party!"

Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose announcement Friday that he would not vote for the proposal seemingly scuttled efforts to revive the repeal, came under renewed criticism from the White House. It was the second time in three months that McCain, at 81 in the twilight of a remarkable career and battling brain cancer, had emerged as the destroyer of his party's signature and years long pledge to voters on health care.

"He campaigned on Repeal & Replace. Let Arizona down!" Trump tweeted.

With Senate Democrats unanimously opposed, two is the exact number of GOP votes that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., can afford to lose. McCain and Paul are in the "no" column, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is leaning against the bill and Murkowksi is also a possible "no."

But Trump isn't letting go, as seen by his series of tweets while he spends the weekend at his New Jersey golf club.

Aiming at Murkowski, Trump cited increases in premiums and other costs in Alaska under the Affordable Care Act. "Deductibles high, people angry! Lisa M comes through," he wrote.

Trump, without offering support for his assertion about former presidential rival Paul, said: "I know Rand Paul and I think he may find a way to get there for the good of the Party!"

But there was no doubt where Trump stood on McCain.

"John McCain never had any intention of voting for this Bill," Trump said. The measure was co-written by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain's closest Senate ally, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

"McCain let his best friend L.G. down!" Trump said, adding that the health bill was "great for Arizona."

McCain, in explaining that he could not "in good conscience" vote for the legislation, said both parties "could do better working together" but hadn't "really tried." He also he could not support the measure "without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it."

His opposition all but ensured a major setback for Trump and McConnell, and appeared likely to deepen rifts between congressional Republicans and a president who has begun making deals with Democrats out of frustration with his own party's failure to turn proposals into laws.

"John McCain shows the same courage in Congress that he showed when he was a naval aviator," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "I have assured Sen. McCain that as soon as repeal is off the table, we Democrats are intent on resuming the bipartisan process."

The Graham-Cassidy bill would repeal major pillars of the health law and replace them with block grants to states to design their own programs.

"Large Block Grants to States is a good thing to do. Better control & management," Trump tweeted.

But major medical groups said millions of people would lose insurance coverage and protections. A bipartisan group of governors announced their opposition.


Associated Press writers Erica Werner, Alan Fram and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington contributed to this report.

By Catherine Lucey, Associated Press. Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The Gayly – September 23, 2017 @ 7 p.m. CDT.