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Trump attacks fellow Republican over healthcare

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump took aim on Wednesday at a fellow Republican who opposes his healthcare reform plan in a bid to squash dissent that presents a major test to his presidential punch.

After years of Republican efforts to rip up Mr Barack Obama's emblematic healthcare law, it remains unclear whether Mr Trump has enough support to get his replacement across the finish line, even with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress.

Mr Trump singled out Kentucky senator and former presidential primary rival Rand Paul in a tweet, and he is finalising plans to travel to the lawmaker's home state tomorrow.

"I feel sure that my friend @RandPaul will come along with the new and great health care program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster!" Mr Trump tweeted.

Despite the cordial tone, Mr Trump's message is being seen as a clear warning to Republicans who may be thinking about opposing his policies.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have long feared Mr Trump's wrath, working on the assumption that harsh presidential criticism on Twitter could lead to political headaches.

The president - despite low national approval ratings - is the most popular Republican in many states and congressional districts.

Mr Paul garnered 57 per cent of the vote during his re-election last year and is up for re-election in 2022. Mr Trump won the state with 63 per cent.

"On a purely ideological level, Donald Trump is probably the better fit with Kentucky than Rand Paul's libertarian republicanism," said Mr Stephen Voss, a professor of political science at the University of Kentucky.

Mr Trump had few qualms about bashing fellow Republicans during his presidential campaign - from "little Marco" Rubio to "Lying Ted" Cruz.

Now, as president, Mr Trump is using the bully pulpit to press through legislation.

Though House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee approved the bill along party lines yesterday morning after debating the draft legislation for nearly 18 hours, the bill still needs to be backed by Congress where. Conservatives like Mr Paul have dubbed it "Obamacare Lite".

Mr Trump's decision to attack the dissenting senator could also prove risky.

If he cannot change Mr Paul's mind and fails to get enough Senate votes to pass his healthcare plan, it would be a body blow to his presidency.

Mr Voss warned:"More commonly what you'd see in situations like this is not that the public will pick the side with whose policies are closer to their preference... they are more likely to see this as a distant figure picking on a local political figure," he said. - REUTERS

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