(Bloomberg) –President Donald Trump said Republicans “blew it” on health care and will lose the 2020 election if they don’t devise a plan to repeal Obamacare that protects coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
“We blew it the last time. Man, I was fed a bill of goods,” Trump said Tuesday in a speech at the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual spring dinner. “We can’t run away” from health care, he added, saying that if the party doesn’t address the issue: “We’ll lose.”
Democrats “have health care right now and we need to take that away from them,” Trump said, laying out a strategy for the 2020 campaign.
He said that Republicans would win back the House of Representatives if they campaign on a pledge to end what is also known as the Affordable Care Act and replace it in their first vote following the election with a cheaper program that still protects sick people from being denied coverage by insurers.
Republicans have struggled mightily since the ACA became law to reach consensus on such a plan.
It wasn’t clear if Trump was aware that reporters had been allowed to cover his speech. At one point he said he expected it to be leaked to the press. Later, he said it would be dangerous for Democrats to win the 2020 election, calling them “stone-cold crazy.”
He used the address to stake out positions and potential themes for his own re-election campaign, and to assail and mock potential opponents and critics. The president singled out former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s been contemplating a bid for the Democratic nomination but come under scrutiny over allegations by two women of inappropriate contact. “I was going to say welcome to the world, Joe. You having a good time, Joe?” Trump told the gathering.
Trump also derided Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive lawmaker from New York who has championed the so-called Green New Deal package of policies for combating climate change.
“The Green New Deal, done by a young bartender, 29 years old,” Trump said, referring to Ocasio-Cortez, who worked in a restaurant before entering politics. He urged Republicans to let Democrats proceed with the Green New Deal so that the GOP could run against it.
The failure by Republicans to overturn the Affordable Care Act has long been a sore point for the president. In recent weeks, however, he has again publicly attacked the late Senator John McCain, who in 2017 cast the decisive vote against a bill branded as a repeal of the health law, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
The following year, Republicans lost control of the House. Many Democratic campaigns focused voter attention on Obamacare repeal legislation the Republican-controlled House had passed that would weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Trump said late Monday that Republicans would wait until after the 2020 election to vote on a replacement for Obamacare, abruptly halting a push he began just last week and guaranteeing that the issue will take center stage in his re-election campaign.
Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that he “was never planning a vote prior to the 2020 Election.”
His announcement, again surprising Republican allies in Congress, ended a week-long scramble by GOP lawmakers to respond to Trump’s demand for an Obamacare alternative after the administration unexpectedly changed its position in a lawsuit, arguing that Obamacare should be entirely struck down by federal courts.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Tuesday that he had told Trump in a phone call that the Senate wouldn’t consider another attempt to overhaul the health-care system before the 2020 elections.
The administration’s new legal position is a political gift to Democrats who have vowed to defend Obamacare and its more popular elements, including insurance coverage protections for sick people and a vast expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor.