Trump calls House healthcare bill 'mean'

President Trump called the House's ObamaCare repeal bill "mean" and said it should be more generous during a meeting with Republican senators Tuesday, according to a Senate GOP aide. 

The comments, which were first reported by The Associated Press, were striking given that Trump has previously praised the House bill and celebrated its passage at the White House. 
 
"This is a great plan," Trump said last month during a Rose Garden ceremony attended by House Republicans the day the bill passed the lower chamber.
 
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It is unclear what effect Trump's comments about the House bill might have. Senate Republicans were already planning to make the bill more generous, for example by increasing tax credits for low-income people. 
 
Asked about Trump's remark, AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWhy the rush to condemn a carbon tax? House votes to go to conference on farm bill House backs resolution expressing support for ICE MORE (R-Wis.), said: "Congressional Republicans, with President Trump’s support, are working to repeal and replace this terrible Obamacare law that is harming Americans." 
 
In the public section of the meeting, Trump said: “I really appreciate what you're doing to come out with a bill that's going to be a phenomenal bill to the people of our country: generous, kind, with heart. That's what I'm saying."
 
The changes to the Senate bill are not expected to be drastic. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDeal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate must approve Justice Served Act to achieve full potential of DNA evidence The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (R-Texas) recently estimated that the Senate bill would be about 80 percent the same as the House measure. 
 
"His message was that there's a sense of urgency about this," Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Helsinki summit becomes new flashpoint for GOP anger Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash MORE (R-S.D.) said after the meeting with the president. "We can't afford to fail; we've got to get it done, and he's certainly fine with the Senate taking a different direction than what the House [did]."

Thune said Trump did not lay out policy specifics of what he’d like to see in the bill, nor did he set a deadline for passing legislation through Congress. 

The White House pressured the House to vote quickly on its healthcare bill in the spring, creating a tense process that Thune said Senate Republicans were looking to avoid.

Thune said the Senate did not want to encounter a "false deadline and not be able to meet it and all the publicity that would go with that."

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who has been more wary of Medicaid cuts in the healthcare bill than some other Republicans, said Trump did not try to pressure him to support a specific bill. 

"He just mostly listened," Portman said.

Asked if any differences were resolved in the meeting, which included centrists such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and more conservative members, Portman said, "No, but that wasn't the purpose of it."

One issue that did come up was the funding of ObamaCare subsidy payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reductions. Trump has previously threatened to cut off the payments as a way to bring about the collapse of the healthcare law. Some Republican lawmakers want to fund the payments to ensure stability, though. 

"That issue got raised and I think he's open to suggestions," Thune said of Trump. "We had some of our members that brought that up."

Thune said the group also discussed an effort he is leading to increase the tax credits in the bill to give more assistance to low-income and older people than the House bill did. 

"The president is very interested in getting a health reform bill through the Senate and he wants us to get moving on it," Thune said. 

This story was updated at 5:41 p.m.