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Trump has stopped criticizing the GOP health bill and started cheerleading for it

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

President Donald Trump brightened his tone considerably on the House Republican health care plan Friday morning. “I want everyone to know I'm 100 percent behind this. The press has not been speaking properly about how great this is going to be,” he said. “I watch, I say, ‘That’s not the bill we’re passing.’”

Contrast that to an interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News just two days ago, when the president appeared to acknowledge that the American Health Care Act was flawed and not “consistent” with his message in the election, and stressed that it was still “very preliminary.”

“We will take care of our people or I'm not signing it, okay? Just so you understand,” Trump told Carlson.

That wasn’t a particularly effective pitch to wavering Republicans fearful of taking a tough vote. Those members of Congress don’t want to be told that the bill they’re being asked to risk their careers on has big problems, or that Trump may not even sign it.

Now, the president has apparently adopted the new strategy of publicly praising the bill and keeping any concerns he has to himself. This is definitely good news for House GOP leaders — as I’ve been arguing, the best way Trump can help get the bill over the finish line is by being a cheerleader for it, which means not criticizing it or demanding changes.

The real swing votes are still undecided

Trump’s comments came after a meeting with members of the House Republican Study Committee (RSC), and he bragged that “every person sitting in this room is now a yes.” A Paul Ryan spokesperson was jubilant on Twitter:

According to multiple reports, Trump and the RSC agreed to some sort of an amendment package including a Medicaid block grant option for states. That’s a bit curious since it was believe that anything giving states more flexibility in administering Medicaid couldn’t pass muster under the Senate’s budget reconciliation rules, so we’ll see what the details are.

Overall, though, the RSC represents the mainstream of the caucus’s conservatives. While members had criticized the bill somewhat, they weren’t viewed as likely to seriously endanger its passage. The most consequential holdouts in the House did not attend the White House meeting:

So the question is still whether Speaker Ryan can craft a manager’s amendment reshaping the bill that can somehow please enough wavering conservatives and other members concerned about coverage losses.

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