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White House signals willingness to work with Democrats on healthcare

After the failure by Republicans on March 24 to get legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act through the House, President Donald Trump and officials in his administration signaled they are ready to work with Democrats to fix the U.S. healthcare system.

"It would be nice to get the Democrats on board," White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said during a March 26 appearance on the political program "Fox News Sunday."

While Trump said March 24 that he expected the ACA to ultimately "explode," Priebus said that if "Democrats come on board with a plan down the road, we will welcome that."

Assigning blame

Trump initially blamed Democrats for the defeat of the American Health Care Act in the House.

"We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats. They weren't going to give us a single vote, so it's a very difficult thing to do," Trump said from the Oval Office shortly after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., confirmed he had pulled the bill after being unable to rally enough Republicans to get to the 216 votes necessary to pass the legislation.

Ryan had delayed the vote a day earlier after it was clear that members of the House Freedom Caucus — a group of the most conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill — and some moderates in the party remained opposed to the legislation, which was introduced March 6.

The speaker earlier in the week had signed off on changes to the bill to appease certain factions of his party, but later revisions made to pacify the Freedom Caucus angered members of the Tuesday Group, an informal caucus of moderate Republicans.

While he blamed Democrats, Trump also acknowledged he was "disappointed" in the role the Freedom Caucus played — although he insisted he did not feel betrayed by the conservatives because they were "friends of mine."

But on March 26, Trump tweeted that "Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and [the Heritage Foundation], have saved Planned Parenthood & [Obamacare]!"

"Well, I think the president is 100% correct and he hits the bull's-eye in that tweet, like he often does," Priebus said on "Fox News Sunday."

He admitted Trump had not reached out to the Democrats before or after the House Republican bill was introduced, and he noted that the president said after the bill failed that it "would have worked out better if we could have had some Democrat support."

"I also think it's time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board," Priebus said.

End of the game?

On NBC's "Meet the Press," however, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said healthcare was no longer one of Trump's priorities to tackle within the first 100 days of his presidency and likely may not be anything he wants to consider this year.

"We've moved on to other things," Mulvaney said. "The president does have things he wants to accomplish. He's not going to sit and wait for Congress to sit around and do the right thing."

The ACA is "going to break," and then "they will come back to us and ask us to take it up again."

But during an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the Freedom Caucus, insisted "we're not at the end of the game," and said it was instead in "overtime."

"We're there to get this across the finish line," Meadows said.

"It's incumbent upon those two groups — the conservatives and the moderates — to come together, hopefully in the coming days, to find consensus, to present something to the president that certainly not only gets him 216 votes, but hopefully 235 votes," he said. "To put a stake in it today would not be accurate."

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on the same program, pointed out that Democrats have "always said we'd work with them to improve" the ACA.

"We just said repeal was off the table," Schumer said.