WASHINGTON — Trying to move forward after a big staff shake-up, facing issues ranging from North Korea to his own attorney general, President Trump said Sunday that Republicans should keep trying to repeal and replace Obamacare — while a top aide suggested Trump would pursue the same goal by cutting regulations.
"Don't give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace," Trump tweeted early in the day.
In the meantime, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said during Sunday show interviews that the administration would look at current regulations they believe drive up health care costs, including the mandate that requires people to buy health insurance.
"We’re going to look at every single one of those rules and regulations, all 1,442 of them," Price said on ABC's This Week.
While Democrats said Trump and Republicans should work with them to improve the current system, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the Senate should not vote on anything until it repeals Obamacare. "Keep in mind, you're talking about something they promised to do for seven years," Mulvaney told CNN's State of the Union.
Trump spent the weekend at the White House after announcing late Friday he had replaced chief of staff Reince Priebus with retired general John Kelly, who moves to to the White House after a stint as secretary of Homeland Security.
The removal of Priebus, just six months into the presidency, came a week after Trump tapped supporter and Wall Street businessman Anthony Scaramucci to be communications director, a move that triggered the resignation of press secretary and Priebus ally Sean Spicer.
The day before Kelly's appointment, The New Yorker magazine posted a story featuring a profanity-laced tirade against Priebus by Scaramucci. At about the same time, Senate Republicans failed to move an Obamacare repeal bill.
As Trump scheduled a Cabinet meeting Monday to formally introduce Kelly as his new chief of staff, questions swirl around how much authority he will have as a presidential gatekeeper.
Numerous staff members, and some friends of Trump outside the government, basically have walk-in privileges with the president, or can call him on the phone. When he came aboard this month, Scaramucci said he reported directly to Trump, not to the chief of staff.
Asked who she reports to, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Sunday that "I will speak with General Kelly and the president about that, as I’m sure Anthony Scaramucci will."
Dismissing reports of staff turmoil, Conway said "everybody is on the same team."
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican who voted against a Trump-backed plan to repeal Obamacare, told NBC's Meet the Press that she thinks Kelly "will bring some order and discipline to the West Wing" — both necessary elements.
Among the challenges for the new Trump-Kelly leadership: North Korea.
Over the weekend, after Kim Jong-Un's government tested another ballistic missile it claimed could reach the United States, Trump attacked China on Twitter for not reining in its nuclear-armed ally and neighbor.
"They do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk," Trump tweeted. "We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!"
The United States responded to the North Korea missile test with a test of its own, an anti-missile system.
The Trump staff shake-up may not be over. Trump has spent recent days attacking Attorney General Jeff Sessions, still upset that he recused himself from a federal investigation of possible links between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russians who sought to influence last year's election. Trump believes Sessions' recusal led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, the ex-FBI director.
Sessions has refused to quit; Trump has refused, so far, to fire him.
As for health care, Senate Republicans have been unable to agree on a way forward.
During Sunday show appearances, Price claimed Obamacare is "imploding" and said Trump may use executive authority to address the law.
The individual mandate, for example, "is one of those things that actually is driving up the costs for the American people in terms of coverage," Price said on ABC's This Week. "All things are on the table to try to help patients."
Collins, in her NBC appearance, said the Republican-run Congress should give up efforts to forge a "comprehensive" alternative to the Obama law and instead "pass a series of bills" to address specific problems.
Democrats said that, by undercutting Obamacare, Republicans would make health insurance unaffordable or unavailable for millions.
Saying the American people reject the GOP's approach, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told Fox News Sunday that repeal-and-replace health care plans would cut "17 million, 20 million, 22 million, or 23 million people off the rolls and diminish the benefits."
In urging Republicans not to give up on repealing Obamacare, Trump also called for a complete removal of the Senate filibuster rule, which basically forces a party to win 60 votes to pass some contested pieces of legislation.
The filibuster did not come into play in the health care debate, however. Senate Republicans could not muster 50 votes to pass a repeal of Obamacare.
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