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WASHINGTON — As Senate negotiations continue over the stalled Republican health care bill, President Donald Trump Friday morning called on senators to pass a simple repeal of Obamacare now and focus on replacing it later this year if no deal is reached.
Trump's tweet came just after Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., sent a letter to the White House urging the president to support a repeal-first, replace-later strategy if there is no agreement by the time senators return from their week-long Fourth of July recess on July 10.
The idea has been floated by some Republicans since a planned Senate vote on the GOP Better Care Reconciliation Act was postponed Tuesday because leaders were unable to secure the 50 GOP votes needed to pass it.
Sasse has been working quietly with the White House on the idea, according to a Senate Republican aide who said the administration was receptive to the idea.
"You campaigned and won on the repeal of Obamacare. So did every Republican senator. We should keep our word," Sasse wrote in the letter.
"On the current path, it looks like Republicans will either fail to pass any meaningful bill at all, or will instead pass a bill that attempts to prop up much of the crumbling Obamacare structures," he added. We can and must do better than either of these — both because the American people deserve better, and because we promised better."
Sasse also asked the president to call on Congress to cancel its scheduled month-long August recess to work on a replacement bill for a Labor Day vote. "After we gave our word to repeal and replace Obamacare’s monstrosity," he said, "we should not go back to our states during August as the American people struggle under fewer choices and skyrocketing costs. We should remain in D.C. at work."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has publicly been advocating starting the idea of starting with a full Obamacare repeal publicly for two weeks, quickly retweeted the president and added his support.
Sasse has kept a low profile throughout the negotiations on health care, refusing to comment or publicly engage on the bill.
The idea was considered by Republican leaders at the beginning of this year when Trump took office but it was quickly dropped when they realized it would be too politically difficult to replace Obamacare outside the reconciliation process where the Senate would need the support of Democrats to pass a replacement.
Senate Republicans continue to discuss a way forward in the health care bill, considering changes to appear both moderates and conservatives to get the support of 50 of 52 Republicans.