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Trump Vows Deal on Health Care, House GOP Says Let's Try

President Donald Trump said Tuesday night that a deal on health care reform wasn't dead — and vowed it could happen "very quickly."
Image: House Republican leadership news conference
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan gestures during a news conference beside House Majority Leader Republican Kevin McCarthy, following a Republican conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 28 March 2017. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDSMICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA

President Donald Trump said Tuesday night that a deal on health care reform wasn't dead — and vowed it could happen "very quickly," as House Republicans said they were determined to get it done despite last week's self-inflicted bruising defeat.

“I know that we’re all going to make a deal on health care, that’s such an easy one," Trump said at a White House function for senators and their families.

"So, I have no doubt that that’s going to happen very quickly. I think it will actually, I think it’s going to happen," the president added. "Because we’ve all been promising — Democrat, Republican — we’ve all been promising that to the American people, so I think a lot of good things are going to happen."

GOP members of all ideological stripes said they also remained intent on passing a repeal and replacement measure for the Affordable Care Act even after leadership told them on Friday that the bill was dead. And even leadership is now open to reviving the health care bill, but they are reluctant to commit until members can commit to settling their differences.

Still, it was the Republicans who wouldn’t budge in their opposition to the GOP bill that went down who appeared most enthusiastic for another attempt.

“I don’t think we need to go home until we get this done,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., referring to an Easter recess expected to start on April 7.

But with feelings still raw after Republicans were unable to unify, a senior GOP aide responded to Meadows' proposal, telling NBC News, "Does that mean he's a 'yes'?"

Meadows leads the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a bloc of Republicans who refused to get on board with the Republican health care plan last week.

Despite their major role in the legislation being pulled from the House floor, they remained bullish on future efforts to reform the current law.

“We're not done, we're not done," said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who is another lawmaker opposed to the measure until the very end.

House Speaker Paul Ryan wasn’t as explicit or as optimistic about the prospects of a new round of health care legislation but didn't rule it out. He spoke to President Donald Trump on the phone twice on Tuesday about the agenda ahead and said health care was part of the discussions.

“I won't tell you the timeline because we want to get it right,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference. “We have an aggressive agenda and we've been moving quickly on this aggressive agenda, but we want to make sure that we get it right.”

White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said that staff have been holding meetings with some lawmakers on health care but said there is no strategy "at this time."

Ryan hinted that the party could move forward but that moderates and conservatives must bridge their differences.

“And we saw good overtures from those members from different parts of our conference to get there because we all share these goals and we're just going to have to figure out how to get it done,” he said.

Moderate Republicans, some of whom announced their opposition to the bill last week, seemed open to continuing work on health care, as well.

Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J. and co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, said that he thinks that after the bill's collapse, there are now "enough people want to find a way to get to 'yes.'"

"It’s only been a few days so I think we have to wait and see how far people are willing to do," he said.

Tuesday's closed-door meeting was the first time Republicans met as a group since the embarrassing admission that Republicans didn’t have enough votes to pass their own health care bill. Staff was kicked out of the meeting after the opening prayer, a rare move for their weekly gathering.

It was described by lawmakers who attended as an open mic session where people discussed how to move forward. While no decisions have been made on how or when to revive the measure, members expressed unity.

“The general consensus was let’s just get it done,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Georgia.

But while the conservatives, who are being blamed for the measure’s unraveling, are most intent on revising health care, other members are less enthusiastic and don’t trust that they will eventually get on board.

Some Republicans advocate working with Democrats on big legislation, insinuating that they could be better legislative partners than the far-right Republicans.

“The reality is we don’t have 218 republican votes. We don’t,” said Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Florida.

In a shift in strategy, Democrats signaled at least a possible opening for negotiations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her Democratic colleagues Tuesday congratulating them on their role in helping to defeat the GOP health care bill. She also asked her members for ideas to improve the Affordable Care Act.

“I am asking Members to send them any suggestions for improving the Affordable Care Act as soon as possible,” Pelosi wrote in the letter. “It would be my hope to create a list of priorities to engage with our colleagues, with social media and advocacy groups, and perhaps even with the President.”

Rep. Meadows said that he’s also opened talks with Democrats on health care.

“I’ve reached out to five different Democrats already,” Meadows said. But despite the talk on Tuesday, the path forward on health care reform remains unclear.

Update: An original version of this story said Rep. Loudermilk was a member of the Freedom Caucus. He resigned from the group earlier this year.