U.S. President Barack Obama is going to Capitol Hill Wednesday to rally Democratic lawmakers to protect his landmark healthcare legislation. Vice President-elect Mike Pence will be there too, to talk with Republicans about their agenda, which includes repealing the program frequently referred to as “Obamacare.”
The dueling meetings highlight one of the major upcoming battles as the White House transitions from Obama to President-elect Donald Trump.
The Affordable Care Act passed Congress in 2010 when Democrats had control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as having Obama in control of the presidency. On January 20, that concentration of power shifts back to the Republicans.
Trump has called Obamacare a “lousy” program that costs far too much, and while he has not laid out specifics of a plan to replace it, he has made it clear he wants to.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday that Obama would be discussing with Democrats how to counter the Republican goal of repeal.
“The President has long been open to the idea that if there are Republicans who are genuinely interested in reforming the Affordable Care Act in a way that would strengthen the program, the president would be strongly supportive of that effort,” Earnest said. “But that’s not what Republicans have offered.”
A focus on the contrasting policy positions of Obama and Trump will likely be on display next week when the president gives his farewell address, followed the next day by Trump’s first major news conference since being elected in November.
Trump announced the January 11 “general news conference” in a Twitter post Tuesday evening.
He had planned to talk to reporters in December to detail how he would address potential conflicts of interest involving his business, but that meeting was postponed. It is not clear how much he will speak about the issue, though that may depend on what questions he is asked. Trump has said he will leave the business in control of his adult sons and other executives.
Trump also used his Twitter account Tuesday to allege an intelligence briefing “on so-called ‘Russian hacking'” was delayed until Friday.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a joint report last week blaming Russia’s intelligence agencies for hacks intended to influence the 2016 U.S. election. The Obama administration imposed sanctions on two Russian agencies and expelled 35 Russian agents from the United States.
Trump has cast doubt on those conclusions and suggested Tuesday his briefing from U.S. intelligence agencies had been delayed because “more time [is] needed to build a case.”
Intelligence officials told multiple news agencies there was no delay and that the briefing had always been scheduled to take place Friday.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump criticized General Motors, the country’s biggest automaker, for sending its Mexican-made Chevrolet Cruze models to U.S. car dealers tax free.
“Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!” Trump declared on Twitter.
GM said it already makes the majority of its compact Cruze models in the United States, at its Lordstown, Ohio, manufacturing plant in the country’s industrial heartland. GM said it imports only the hatchback version of the Cruze from Mexico, a small percentage of the 172,000 Cruzes the automaker sold through the first 11 months of last year. In addition to Mexico, GM makes the $21,000 car in China.
The automaker said last June that consumer demand for the Cruze was such that the Lordstown plant couldn’t produce enough of them, leading the company to ramp up production at its existing manufacturing facility in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.
Like other U.S. manufacturers, General Motors employs cheaper labor in Mexico, paying workers an average of about $10 an hour, substantially less than the $33 average for autoworkers in the U.S., and benefits from Mexico’s free trade agreements with 40 countries, including the United States.
During his campaign for president, Trump assailed U.S. trade deals, including the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, contending the pacts lead to elimination of jobs for U.S. workers. He has vowed to renegotiate NAFTA and pull the U.S. out of a proposed deal among 12 Pacific rim nations, but Trump faces opposition in Washington from Republican lawmakers who often favor the free trade agreements.
Trump has pledged to impose a 35-percent tax on U.S. companies that make their products in other countries if they try to send them back across the border for sale in the U.S. Trump, however, would need congressional approval to impose such a tax and risks initiating a trade war with other countries and making U.S. consumers pay higher prices on foreign-made goods.