White House seeks to explain Trump comments on senator

President Trump’s top spokeswoman on Thursday sought to explain his false claim that an ObamaCare repeal bill could not pass because a senator was in the hospital.

“The point we're making is that we have the votes on the substance, just not necessarily on the process,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Sanders confirmed the president was referring to Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranGOP Senate candidate to African Americans: Stop begging for 'government scraps' Trump endorses Hyde-Smith in Mississippi Senate race GOP Senate candidate doubles down on Robert E. Lee despite Twitter poll MORE (R-Miss.), who has been suffering from health problems.

“Look, our understanding was that the senator was physically unable to be here this week,” she said. 

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Cochran, however, was not in the hospital. He said he was at home recuperating from a urological problem. 

And Cochran was not a factor in the Senate GOP’s decision to not hold a vote on the ObamaCare measure.

GOP leaders decided to scrap the vote after it was apparent they lacked enough votes to pass it. Three Republican senators — Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsKavanaugh accuser set to testify Thursday McConnell told Trump criticism of Kavanaugh accuser isn't helpful: report Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage MORE (Maine), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (Ariz.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulA Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (Ky.) — all opposed it. 

Republicans could only afford two defections and still have enough votes to pass the measure. 

The Senate faces a Sept. 30 deadline to vote on a health-care bill under rules that would allow it to pass on a majority vote.

Trump has claimed at least six times that the health-care bill would have passed if Cochran was not in the hospital. 

“We don't have enough time, because we have one senator who’s a ‘yes’ vote — a great person, but he's in the hospital. And he’s a ‘yes’ vote. So we can't do it by Friday. So we have the votes,” he said in a Fox News interview that aired Thursday.