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Trump Tries To Sell Republican Health Care Plan To Conservatives

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Democrats have been lining up against a Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, and that's not a surprise. But Republican resistance to House Speaker Paul Ryan's proposal has even the White House taken aback. In our studios this morning is David Urban, a prominent GOP lobbyist in Washington. He was a senior adviser to President Trump during the campaign, and he was been credited with delivering the key state of Pennsylvania to the president. David Urban, good morning.

DAVID URBAN: Well, good morning to you. Thank you, David.

GREENE: Well, thanks for coming in. So is the president having some trouble here keeping his party unified?

URBAN: No, no, David. Look, I think, you don't have to have unanimity to have unity.

GREENE: OK.

URBAN: And I think the party's united behind wanting to fix the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, and the president - you know, the party is united behind that.

GREENE: Are they really united?

URBAN: Sure.

GREENE: I mean, we have some more centrist Republicans who are very concerned about what they see as rolling back the expansion of Medicaid. We have some more conservative Republicans who are saying this feels like Obamacare 2.0. How is that unity?

URBAN: Well, again, you don't have to have unanimity to have unity, right?

GREENE: OK.

URBAN: People are united behind the fact that they would like to see a better, more affordable plan that covers more people and is less onerous. Look, when you have Senator Schumer and former President Clinton saying the plan isn't great, there's something needs to be done. I liken trying to repair Obamacare to playing Jenga. You know the game Jenga?

GREENE: (Laughter) Yeah, but explain the metaphor here.

URBAN: Well, no, you have to be careful which block you pull out - right? - because it's a system. It's a very complex system. The U.S. health care system is incredibly complex, and so repairing it's complex as well.

GREENE: Well, let's carry on with your metaphor here, important not to pull out the wrong block. I mean, there is very little wiggle room for this president. I mean, if a few Republicans defect in the Senate, no new health care plan passes, wouldn't that be a huge blow to President Trump?

URBAN: I think, look, we're not there yet. You know, the old saying is you don't want to watch sausage or legislation being made, and so avert your eyes, America.

GREENE: You're telling Americans not to pay attention to this debate.

URBAN: Oh, no, I'm just saying that, you know, if you don't want to see the legislative process at work, that's what's happening right now. The president put forth a plan, along with - you know, it's being debated now. It's being worked on in the House. It's going to be debated in the Senate just as a normal legislative process works. It just - you know, it's not always a smooth process. No matter who's controlling either chamber - all the chambers or the Senate or the House or the White House - it's a difficult process. Getting legislation through and passed and signed by the president is somewhat cumbersome.

GREENE: So what's going on right now? Is President Trump on the phone with Republicans...

URBAN: Sure.

GREENE: ...Making promises for certain things to get their vote on this or - take me behind the scenes.

URBAN: No, I don't think that's the case. I mean, I think you see - you know, he's meeting with the Whip Team - the House Whip Team - he's engaging various senators and folks who may have some questions about this, trying to walk it through. You know, you saw this - the speaker yesterday giving an overview to folks. And so look, they're trying to sell different parts of the plan to different folks along the way. This is the legislative process at work. It's why our country's great. Nothing gets jammed through here. Things get debated. Things get discussed, and there's a - it's a marketplace of ideas.

GREENE: Fair to say there is a lot of - on the line here. I mean, the president has an ambitious agenda, health care tax reform, infrastructure repair. You know, this is the first big fight. Fair to say the stakes are high.

URBAN: Absolutely. Stakes are very high on this.

GREENE: And what happens if, you know, the Republicans vote to defeat this or none - and you don't get enough votes?

URBAN: I don't think that's an option. I think there will be. I think the president won with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm behind him. I think that folks who maybe oppose this will come around as they sit through and negotiate line by line. And I don't think failure is an option here.

GREENE: Let me ask you about something else. The president stunned a lot of people when he accused President Obama of wiretapping him. Do you really think that happened?

URBAN: Look, I don't know what the facts are behind that. All I know is that - what the carefully worded statement put out by President Obama's spokespeople are. I saw, you know, John Favreau's tweet about it. And so I just leave it at that. I think that there are such scenarios that are possible where something along those lines may have occurred, and I'm not going to guess on what the president knows or doesn't know, what may or may not occurred. And I think we're going to find out in due course.

GREENE: But there's no evidence of this you know of.

URBAN: No, I mean...

GREENE: I mean, we've had the FBI director James Comey denying it, not a single member of the - go ahead.

URBAN: I mean, I don't know any evidence of it. But I don't - that still doesn't mean I don't doubt that the president's being truthful.

GREENE: Republicans in Congress seem to be distancing themself (ph) from the White House on this. Does that make it a risk that the president could lose some credibility on Capitol Hill if he keeps pushing this narrative?

URBAN: No, listen, listen, the whole narrative with Russia - every day I wake up, there's some new revelation about the bank, right? There's some sort of nefarious connection between the bank and the server, you know, 3,000 pings. You know, it's obviously a very - if you're trying to do something covertly, it's kind of a clumsy way to do it with 3,000, 4,000 footprints in the snow on that. So...

GREENE: What - you're talking about how Russia might have hacked into this or...

URBAN: Well, no, just the - yesterday, on - there's been some reporting about some, you know, interchange between a bank server and a server that was...

GREENE: Oh, the most recent story.

URBAN: Correct. And, you know - and listen, the original New York Times story that started this whole thing was based upon leaking of very classified material that no one's - nobody seems to be concerned about, which I'm concerned about. And I think there's no there there. I think that - let's peel the onion back, let's see what's happened. I don't think there's any issue, and I think at the bottom - at the end of the day, it's just a - it's a diversion. Look, the Russians didn't help - the Russians didn't win the election. The Democrats unfortunately didn't have a great candidate or great plan here, and it's unfortunate they lost. And now they're trying to divert to the fact that they lost.

GREENE: Although the intelligence agencies seem to say they have a lot of proof of Russian involvement, we should say.

URBAN: Well, not - I wouldn't say.

GREENE: But we'll...

URBAN: David, I wouldn't say Russian involvement. They definitely hacked into the DNC. That's for certain.

GREENE: OK. David Urban, senior adviser to Donald Trump during the campaign, thanks so much.

URBAN: Thanks, David. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.