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Trump Calls On GOP To Pass Health Care Or Leave The ACA In Place


Much about politics is predictable - not this. House leaders insist they will vote today on a replacement to the Affordable Care Act. They've delayed the vote once because they didn't have enough votes to pass. It's not clear if they found any more votes but they're going to try. And NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is covering this dramatic story. Hi, Tam.


INSKEEP: I'm thinking of the old saying about lawyers who should never ask a question they don't know the answer to. Lawmakers aren't supposed to hold a vote until they know how it's going to turn out. Do they know how this is going to turn out?

KEITH: No, they don't know how this is going to turn out. But the president has decided that he wants them to try. Last night, House Republicans gathered behind closed doors. And the president's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, came in. He's a recently former member of Congress. And he delivered a message from President Trump. This is how Florida Republican Brian Mast describes what he said.

BRIAN MAST: He's negotiated. And he's reached the exhaustion of his negotiation. And the ball is in our court to do what we're going to do with it. And one way or another, we will move on.

KEITH: And the other part of that, we're told from people who were in the room, is that the president says if this fails, he's moving on to other priorities and leaving Obamacare in place. Which prompted me to go look up my copy of "The Art Of The Deal," where I found a line that seems relevant.

INSKEEP: This is the Trump autobiography for the - OK.

KEITH: This is the Trump autobiography. And here's the line. The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. This seems to be the president saying he's willing to walk and telling members of his own party that this bill, you know, it may be imperfect, but it's their only shot. Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole, who is part of the leadership team who's trying to round up votes, and he put the pitch to members this way.

TOM COLE: You know, we decide whether or not we're going to be the governing party are going to be an opposition party. We've been a hell of an opposition party. Barack Obama would tell you we're a great opposition party. But we have a different president. And now's the time to go on offense. Can you move something forward? Which is infinitely more difficult and complex. There's a lot of growing pains here. Tomorrow's a very big moment for us.

INSKEEP: Are any of the lawmakers who've been resistant here seeing it that way?

KEITH: Yes. It seems like some people are starting to soften their opposition, are realizing this may really truly be their only shot. And coming out of that closed-door meeting, they did seem really energized. One member said it was more like "Remember The Titans" than a typical smoke-filled room.


KEITH: "Remember The Titans" is a Denzel Washington football movie. And I'm told that Congressman Mast delivered a particularly rousing speech. He's an Army veteran. He lost both of his legs in Afghanistan. And he is voting for the bill.


MAST: I've never been, you know, in a battle where we won it with a single shot. And the replacement of the Affordable Care Act is not going to be any different. It's going to take a couple shots in order to win this battle. And I've never been in a battle where the plan was completely perfect. But we went out there and we got the job done on the battlefield because we were united, because we worked together, because we moved together as a unit, and we had that common commitment.

KEITH: So this message just sort of like, OK, we have to do this as a team. And then maybe the bill can get fixed or changed somewhere down the line, maybe in the Senate.

INSKEEP: And we'll see where it goes with NPR's Tamara Keith. Tamara, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.