The White House expressed optimism Monday that Congress would pass a healthcare bill before its August recess even as President Trump suggested lawmakers should stay on Capitol Hill if they don’t.
Trump took to Twitter on Monday to warn members against taking their annual five-week break before sending an Obamacare repeal measure to his desk.
I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017
A day earlier, his chief of staff hinted at the president’s desire to see Republican lawmakers stay in town until they arrive at a healthcare consensus.
“Whether it’d be before August recess or during August recess, the president expects the Senate to fulfill the promises it made to the American people,” Reince Priebus said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
Priebus said Trump expects to see Congress repeal and replace Obamacare “maybe before” or “maybe a little bit into” the August recess, which will begin the week of July 31 if it proceeds as scheduled.
Marc Short, the White House’s legislative affairs director, projected optimism this week that Republican lawmakers could resolve their disputes about healthcare before the recess begins. However, he echoed Trump and Vice President Mike Pence by suggesting members should vote on a clean Obamacare repeal bill if they fail to muster the support necessary to pass the current healthcare plan.
“We still look forward to completing the repeal and replace before August,” Short told reporters at the White House on Monday, adding that he hoped Congress could pass a tax reform package in the same time frame.
And Sarah Sanders, deputy press secretary, declined to elaborate on the president’s warning when pressed about the August recess on Monday.
“I don’t know that he’s going to lay out a list of consequences” for members who stall the healthcare bill, Sanders told reporters. “His focus is making sure it gets done not, on what happens if it doesn’t.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for clarification about whether Trump will fully endorse the proposal to skip August recess in the event Republicans fail to scrape together enough votes for their bill.
Pence “is focused on getting it done as quickly as possible,” an aide to the vice president told the Washington Examiner.
“I’d refer you to the president’s tweet on recess,” the aide said.
Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus have advocated for Congress to stay in Washington until they can agree on a path forward for healthcare.
And a group of 10 Republican senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in late June asking him to consider truncating or canceling the August break so members have more time to work on healthcare, budget and tax reform legislation.
The White House has previously indicated that administration officials view the start of August recess as the unofficial deadline for the passage of a GOP healthcare bill.
When members return from their month-long break at the end of August, they will face pressure to pass a budget to keep the government open past Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends.
Congressional leaders have not yet indicated whether they will seriously consider requests to delay the annual recess.
White House projects healthcare optimism as Trump tweets about no August recess