Spicer: GOP health bill ‘the only alternative’; questions remain on wiretap charges

WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told CBS News correspondent Steven Portnoy that conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill need to get on board with the current Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and that the White House still has questions about their charges that President Barack Obama had President Donald Trump wiretapped.

CBS News White House correspondent Steven Portnoy talked with WTOP on Friday, shortly after his interview with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for the CBS News Weekend Roundup. Portnoy said Trump was working “rather aggressively” to get support from Congress for the American Health Care Act.

Trump has a rally scheduled for Tuesday night in Nashville, and is meeting with members of Congress every day to convince those who are on the fence about the bill. He recently invited a group of lawmakers to the White House for a night of pizza, beer and bowling, which Portnoy characterized as “part of the soft sell,” but emphasized that “the White House is very much in sell mode.”

The administration, Portnoy said, is trying to navigate between conservative Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus who object to the act’s tax credits for health insurance and moderate Senate Republicans “who frankly are worried about whether this package will unwind the Medicaid expansion too soon.”

According to a partial transcript released by CBS News, Spicer told Portnoy that his message to Republicans in Congress is, “This is the only alternative to repeal and replace health care with a patient-centered plan.”

Portnoy said Spicer told him the tax credits are “essential.” According to the transcript, Spicer said, “There’s … millions of people who have to go into the single market. And we want to make sure that they have the same advantages that every other American has, who gets their benefits through, either employer-based or through Medicare or Medicaid or Tricare.”


Wiretap charges

Last Saturday, the president, in a series of tweets, said that then-President Barack Obama had Trump’s phones tapped during the 2016 presidential campaign. The White House has offered no evidence in support of the charges, and has instead pivoted from the president’s tweets, which were phrased as declarations of fact, into requests for investigations.

Spicer continued on that track with Portnoy, saying of Congress, “I think there’s a lot that they need to look at,” according to the transcript.

FBI Director James Comey went to Capitol Hill earlier this week to address Gang of Eight — the bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators who get “read in” to classified information — regarding the wiretapping charges. Before the meeting, Portnoy told WTOP, he was told Comey intended to tell them “there was no truth” to Trump’s accusations.

A week from Monday, Comey has been invited to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. It’s possible he will refute the Trump accusations publicly. Portnoy said he asked Spicer whether “that sets the president up for an embarrassment.”

Spicer responded, “I think there’s a lot that needs to get discussed about the 2016 election,” the transcript said. He also said that many accusations against the Trump administration were made by “anonymous sources,” and that “I think it’s time that in some cases we do hear directly from the sources.”

The full interview will be aired on the CBS News Weekend Roundup; on WTOP’s sister station, WFED, and will be available on iTunes.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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