WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats mocked President Donald Trump on Tuesday for pushing back his promise of sweeping healthcare reform until after the 2020 election, and said they were happy to make it a central campaign issue.
Trump in recent days had pledged to use court action to end Obamacare, the signature law of his Democratic predecessor President Barack Obama, and said his Republican Party would over the next few months push for a better healthcare plan at lower cost for most Americans.
But Republican leaders in Congress quickly shied away from the issue and pushed him to reconsider.
In a series of late-night posts on Twitter on Monday Trump did just that, saying there would be no vote on any healthcare legislation until after next year’s election.
Democrats gleefully jumped on the delay, saying it showed Trump and his party have no idea what to do with healthcare beyond repealing Obamacare.
“Last night the president tweeted that they will come up with their plan in 2021. Translation: they have no healthcare plan,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said. “They are for repeal, they have no replace.”
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said he told Trump on Monday that the party was not about to restart work on comprehensive healthcare legislation, noting they were unable to pass a plan when they controlled both chambers of Congress in the first two years of the Trump presidency.
“I made it clear to him we were not going to be doing that in the Senate,” McConnell told reporters.
Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in November elections after campaigning heavily on healthcare.
Trump said on Tuesday he and Republicans would draw up a new healthcare plan ahead of the 2020 election and implement it soon afterward.
“I think we’re going to have a great healthcare package … If we get back the House and on the assumption we keep the Senate and we keep the presidency – which I hope are two good assumptions – we’re going to have a phenomenal healthcare,” Trump told reporters.
He said a Republican plan would mean most Americans pay lower premiums and deductibles for their healthcare than they currently pay under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
While Trump’s delay gives Republicans more time to knit together an alternative to Obamacare, it all but guarantees a 2020 battle over the divisive issue.
“Don’t let President Trump fool you, America. Republicans are not the party of healthcare. They are the party that wants to end your healthcare,” Schumer said at a rally on Tuesday. “We Democrats will not stop fighting tooth and nail to protect America’s healthcare, today, tomorrow, and on in through 2021.”
Trump and his fellow Republicans had vowed in the 2016 presidential election to “repeal and replace” Obamacare but failed to do so during their first two years in power, despite control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Several of the leading candidates for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, including a number of current U.S. senators, have already made healthcare a major part of their campaign message.
Trump accuses Democrats of seeking “a socialist takeover of American healthcare,” and is certain to take that argument onto the 2020 campaign trail.
“I see what the Democrats are doing. It’s a disaster what they’re planning and everyone knows it,” he told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Susan Thomas and Bill Berkrot