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Trump and Pence Team Up to Pledge Obamacare Repeal Again

One week before Election Day, Donald Trump and Mike Pence pledged a special session of Congress to repeal Obamacare.
Image: Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in King of Prussia, Pa., Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. Neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton talks much anymore about why they're the best choice for president. Instead in the campaign's last days, they're focused on casting each other as a catastrophic choice. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Evan Vucci / AP

KING OF PRUSSIA, Penn. — One week out from Election Day, Donald Trump and Mike Pence took another swing at the single biggest punching bag for Republicans over the last eight years -- President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

“I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace [Obamacare],” Trump said on Tuesday in Pennsylvania in a joint appearance with his running mate. “Obamacare has to be replaced, and we will do it. And we will do it very, very quickly. It is a catastrophe.”

Asked during a later stop about his pledge, Trump said he had not spoken to anyone in Congress about the technical mechanism to repeal the law but added, “we will soon.”

The next Congress will convene in early January while the next president will be sworn in on January 20. It was not clear what specifically Trump was referring to in his “special session” promise. A sitting president can call Congress into special session when it is adjourned, but by the time the next president is sworn in, Congress will already be in session.

In typical Trump fashion, the Obamacare-focused speech veered into other topics, while his running mate managed to keep his own remarks and policy proposals on message. Trump spoke fleetingly about promising to rebuild America's military and about bringing back vocational training and education.

The GOP ticket focused its attacks on healthcare Tuesday, always a red meat topic, as it works to spur hesitant Republican voters on Election Day to turnout.

But Trump and Pence are also looking to make a play for Independents and Democrats whom the campaign believes have been adversely affected by increasing premiums and a dwindling of provider options.

“The case has never been stronger for repeal,” Pence said to several hundred inside a hotel ballroom in this Philadelphia exurb. The vice presidential candidate asked the crowd: “What good is a healthcare plan if you can’t afford to use it?”

The Obama administration acknowledged last month that premiums for many mid-level plans under the Affordable Care Act would increase by double digits. A litany of insurance providers have backed out of the state exchanges, leaving few options for individuals to choose from and limiting the competition among the providers.

To date, the Affordable Care Act has extended coverage to about 20 million Americans who were previously uninsured. There remains 29 million people without healthcare in the country.

But Pence was measured in announcing the ticket’s proposals over the course of a 26-minute address — Trump then echoed his calls for action.

Along with entirely repealing the Affordable Care Act, which Pence called the “albatross on the economy,” the duo said they would abolish the individual mandate that every American must purchase a health care plan. The also called for individuals to purchase health insurance plans across state lines, a traditional Republican talking point since the debate over the Affordable Care Act began. Pence told the gathering that a Trump administration would also “protect” individuals with preexisting conditions and provide a “transition period” for those already receiving subsidies through an exchange.

At the forefront of the joint address, however, was the Indiana governor’s emphasis on expanding health savings accounts, which individuals pay into over time and are then able to tap into for his or her future medical needs, as well as the issuing of block grants to the states for Medicaid coverage.

Pence agreed to the expansion of Medicaid in his home state of Indiana but only after the Obama administration allowed him to implement a slate of rules that included requiring most Hoosiers who take advantage of the benefits to pay some money into those heath savings accounts.

Hillary Clinton told a Miami radio station last week that her administration would “make changes to fix problems like” increasing premiums and a dwindling of coverage options.

Mike Pence has made the repeal of the Affordable Care Act a bedrock of his stump speech since joining the GOP ticket in July.

The House of Representatives, which Pence served in until 2013, has now passed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act 63 times. Both the House and Senate passed such a bill last year – the president vetoed it in January.

“I’m also proud that since 2010, Republicans in Congress have been united and continued to work each and everyday to replace Obamacare with a free-market healthcare solution that will work for the American people,” Pence said.

Tuesday’s policy address was the first time that the vice presidential candidate took a leading role in laying out the ticket’s vision. A campaign aide has said Pence would play an active role in crafting policy plans and working with Congress to pass respective legislation if the ticket wins next week.

Ben Carson and several members of Congress whom also are doctors, including Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, addressed the gathering before Pence and Trump took to the podium.

NBC News' Jon Schuppe contributed to this story.