Texans in Congress head home as Trump muddles health care negotiations

Republican members of the Texas congressional delegation began returning home for a Fourth of July recess Friday amid troubled negotiations on a health care overhaul measure that drew the attention of President Trump. 

President Donald Trump gathers with Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the U.S. House of Representatives approved the American Healthcare Act, which would repeal major parts of Obamacare, in Washington, D.C., on May 4, 2017.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump threw a curveball at Republicans in Congress on Friday, just as many were trekking home for what could be yet another recess of negative feedback from constituents. 

"If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!" Trump tweeted Friday morning. 

Health care advocates have warned that such a plan would create the kind of shockwaves across the American health care system and broader economy that most Republicans are trying desperately to avoid as they overhaul former President Obama's 2010 health care law.

Republicans ruled out that track months ago, but at the same time, it's the effort to "replace" the current system that has been a perpetual buzzsaw of problems for the party.

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U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady of the Woodlands, perhaps, the most powerful Texan in the health care debate as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, immediately tamped down Trump's suggestion, according to the Washington Post

"That doesn't achieve what President Trump set out to do, which is to not only repeal the damaging effects of the law, help people who are trapped in it right now...but to put in place a transition to a free market, where there's a lot more choice then there are today." 

"Democrats, no doubt, would obstruct any fair opportunity to replace the Affordable Care Act in the future," he added. "So the very best opportunity to begin this good, thoughtful transition to affordable care is right now in [the Senate procedural rule of] reconciliation." 

The latest Trump flare up came as Texas Congressional delegation was returning home for the Fourth of July recess, marking the half-way point of not just a bruising summer for the GOP, but a tough year with no substantial legislative achievements beyond the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

For now, the focus is on the U.S. Senate, including Texas’ two members, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Cornyn, the Senate Majority Whip, tried mightily – and unsuccessfully – to corral enough votes on a health care bill this past week. By Tuesday, leaders shelved it and engaged in more rounds of negotiations that did little to move forward their ambitions to unwind former President Obama’s 2010 health care law. 

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Since the original Senate bill was released, Cruz has been a soft holdout on support. Earlier this week, he floated an amendment to the bill aimed at drawing support of more conservative senators. 

Republicans insist they will take up the issue again when members return from next week’s recess period. But Senate leaders worried constituent feedback during the break might further complicate their efforts.  

Either way, July is likely to be a harried month for Congress. Health care will soon compete with efforts led by Brady and others to move forward on tax reform, as well as avoiding a possible government default by raising the country’s credit limit.

Congress usually leaves town for five weeks, from late July until after Labor Day. But U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Tyler Republican, suggested that Congress ought to stay in Washington to address pressing issues . 

“I drafted a letter that says if we don't get a healthcare bill passed into law, if we don't get tax reform passed into law, then, we need to forgo going home for August, and stay here till we get it done,” he said on Fox Business Channel. 

Gohmert has little sway over colleagues, but others in national politics are taking the concept so seriously that many Washingtonians are only cautiously making summer vacation plans.