Minutes before the Senate Republicans’ health-care bill went down in flames Monday night, Montana’s Republican U.S. senator, Steve Daines, dined at the White House with President Trump – but says they didn’t talk exclusively about health care.
“There really wasn’t an agenda,” Daines told MTN News Tuesday morning. “It was a 90-minute strategy about, `How do we get more results in Washington, D.C’ – how do we get things accomplished?”
The discussion included health care, tax reform, the federal debt ceiling and the nation’s $20 trillion federal debt, he said.
Daines said he has one idea on how to accelerate things in Washington: Get rid of the filibuster rule that can be used to block most legislation in the U.S. Senate, unless a 60-vote super-majority can be overcome. Republicans control only 52 seats in the 100-member body.
“I think we should go to a simple majority vote on all votes in the U.S. Senate,” Daines said.
Trump apparently agrees, for the next morning, he tweeted that the Senate needs to go to a 51-vote majority.
“Even parts of full repeal need 60 (votes). 8 Dems control Senate. Crazy!” the president tweeted.
Daines, six other Republican senators and Vice President Mike Pence were at the dinner in the Blue Room of the White House. The Washington Post reports that they dined on grilled rib-eye steak and lemon ricotta agnolotti (a stuffed pasta similar to ravioli).
Daines said he received his invitation the previous week, but wasn’t told the topic ahead of time – although news outlets reported as early as late Monday afternoon that the senators had been invited to talk about the ongoing effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”
Joining Daines were Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, John Thune of South Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee (who chairs the Senate Health Committee), Roy Blunt of Missouri, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Richard Shelby of Alabama.
National news reports noted that none of the senators attended is viewed as a potential opponent to repealing the ACA. Daines is the only one who had said he wasn’t sure if he’d vote for the final bill, although he said he would support bringing it to the floor.
A half-hour after the dinner, two additional Republican U.S. senators – Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas – announced they would oppose bringing the bill to the floor, essentially killing it.
Lee and Moran brought to four the number of Senate Republicans opposed, meaning only 48 votes existed to move the bill.
Daines and other Senate Republicans said Tuesday morning they now would vote for straight repeal of the ACA, with a delayed effective date, to give Congress time to work on the replacement. But the votes don’t appear to be there to advance that approach either.
Daines, a former executive for software-development firm RightNow Technologies, said he also talked with the president about how the business world seems to operate on a faster schedule than government.
“In my observation, President Trump is used to operating at the speed of business, not the speed of government,” Daines said. “And he wants to see results.”