U.S. President Donald Trump and members of his administration on Sunday urged Republican senators not to give up trying to pass a healthcare bill, after they failed last week to muster enough votes to repeal and replace parts of Obamacare.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said he would implement Obamacare because it is currently the law.
"Don't give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace ..." the president said in a tweet.
On Friday, Senate Republicans failed to collect enough votes to repeal even a few parts of Obamacare. That capped a week of failed Senate votes on whether to simply repeal, or repeal and replace, the 2010 law, which has provided some 20 million previously uninsured Americans with health coverage.
Republican congressional leaders have suggested they are ready to move on to other issues, but Trump as well as his advisers over the weekend seemed unwilling to let the matter go.
"The president will not accept those who said, quote, 'it's time to move on,'" Kellyanne Conway, a senior counselor to Trump, said on Fox News Sunday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, had made exactly that comment before dawn on Friday morning after the failed healthcare vote.
The White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said on Sunday lawmakers should stay in session to get something done on healthcare - even if this means postponing votes on other issues such as raising the debt ceiling.
The House of Representatives has already left Washington for the annual August recess; the Senate is expected to stay another week before recessing.
"So yes. They need to stay. They need to work. They need to pass something," Mulvaney said on CNN.
Mulvaney also said Trump was seriously considering carrying out threats he tweeted about on Saturday, when the president said that "if a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!"
That tweet appeared to be referring to the approximately $8 billion in cost-sharing reduction subsidies the federal government pays to insurers to lower the price of health coverage for low-income Americans.
The Saturday tweet also appeared to be a threat to end the employer contribution for members of Congress and their staffs, who were moved from the normal federal employee healthcare benefits program onto the Obamacare insurance exchanges as part of the 2010 healthcare law.
"What he's saying is, look, if Obamacare is hurting the American people – and it is – then why shouldn't it hurt insurance companies and more importantly, perhaps for this discussion, members of Congress?" Mulvaney said on Sunday on CNN.
Conway told Fox that Trump would decide this week whether to end the cost-sharing payments to insurance companies. But Democrats said those subsidies were not a bailout.
"This is not bailing out insurance companies – this is about having stability in the private sector in order to provide healthcare," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Fox.
Health secretary Price told NBC's "Meet the Press" he would implement Obamacare while it is the "law of the land." But on another network, Price said he would be looking at rewriting over 1,400 Obamacare regulations implementing the law.
"And when it (a regulation) drives up costs and hurts patients, we are going to move in the other direction," Price said on ABC's "This Week."
Some Republicans have said they are trying to find a way forward on healthcare. Senate Republican Susan Collins, one of three Republicans who voted against repealing parts of Obamacare on Friday, told NBC that Congress should produce a series of bills with bipartisan input on healthcare, including appropriating the cost-sharing subsidies.
However, a majority of Americans are ready to move on from healthcare at this point. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Saturday, 64 percent of 1,136 people surveyed on Friday and Saturday said they wanted to keep Obamacare, either "entirely as is" or after fixing "problem areas." That is up from 54 percent in January.