WASHINGTON – The top Democratic senator predicted Monday that Republicans will fail to fulfill their long-stated goal of repealing and replacing the federal health-care law, as he went on the attack against President Donald Trump on the eve of his first address to a joint session of Congress.
Speaking at a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed to widespread disagreement among Republicans about how to go about undoing key parts of the law, as well as intense pressure from constituents urging them not to rush ahead with their effort.
“I predict the discord in their party will grow as Republicans return to Washington after this last week of angry town halls,” Schumer said. “I believe the odds are very high we will keep the ACA, it will not be repealed.”
The comments highlighted how Democrats have been emboldened by Republican stumbles as they seek to stop the GOP from shredding key parts of the law. While Trump and many Republicans campaigned on the promise of getting rid of it, they have yet to coalesce around a clear plan to make it happen.
The Democratic leader said that, by contrast, his party has defied expectations of divisiveness by uniting against much of Trump’s Cabinet and his push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Schumer’s comments were part of a preemptive attack against Trump in which he and Pelosi accused the president of breaking promises to middle class Americans. They insisted that the president has failed to make good on vows to help working class people and has opted instead to pursue divisive measures that will benefit wealthy Americans and “reckless” national security policies that undermine the country’s values and diminish its safety.
The president’s most ardent supports have cheered some of his moves, but Democrats have largely united against him, and some Republicans have expressed concerns about his actions.
“The president hasn’t done very much, but what he has done is forsake his promises to the middle class,” Schumer said.
Pelosi argued that Trump “utterly squandered” his first 40 days in office, focusing on a “brutal agenda to target vulnerable populations and instill fear” instead of providing economic relief for everyday Americans. She singled out his controversial immigration ban, which has been stopped by a federal court, among other things.
Pelosi said Trump had embarked on a “bait and switch” agenda.
Schumer and Pelosi expressed concerns with Trump’s budget proposal, which was unveiled earlier Monday and will seek to boost defense spending and curtail costs in other areas. While they said they will reserve final judgment for the point when it becomes clear where specific spending cuts will come from, they voiced worries about the prospect of slashing spending on educational and environmental initiatives, and other areas.
“When we see more, we can speak to it more precisely, but this is a really bad path that we have seen so far,” Pelosi said. Schumer predicted “middle class families are going to be hurt” by the blueprint the Trump White House has advanced.
At the White House, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, provided a very different appraisal of the start of Trump’s presidency, arguing it has been a productive stretch.
“He’s continuing to work with Congress on both repealing and replacing Obamacare [and] tax reform, and fundamentally, both of those two items alone, I think, can help spur a lot of economic growth,” Spicer said. “The meetings that we’ve had with the CEOs, the health insurers, there’s so many things that are job killing, and it can be done to help promote a better regulatory and tax climate that leads to job creation.”
He added: “The meetings and the actions that the president has taken, on both regulatory and other matters, have helped spur job – job creation.”
Democrats intend to hit Trump on immigration and health care after Tuesday’s speech. They have selected former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear, D, to deliver the official response to Trump’s speech. Supporters of the ACA have often pointed to Kentucky as a model for successful implementation of the law.
Astrid Silva, an immigration activist and so-called Dreamer, will deliver the Spanish-language response.