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Trump: Pass bill or I'll move on

WASHINGTON: Mr Donald Trump has warned Republicans that he is done negotiating and wants a vote to dismantle Obamacare, setting up a high-stakes showdown with members of his own party over his embattled healthcare plan.

House leaders were forced to postpone a Thursday vote on the measure amid a revolt by mainly conservative Republicans, who were complicating the first major legislative test for the new President.

Mr Trump himself set the stage, dispatching an aide to a closed-door meeting of Republican lawmakers to demand a Friday vote.

"The message is tomorrow it's up, it's down - we expect it to be up - but it's done tomorrow," White House Budget director Mick Mulvaney told the lawmakers, according to Congressman Chris Collins.

Mr Mulvaney then delivered Mr Trump's extraordinary ultimatum. "If it doesn't pass, we're moving beyond healthcare," Mr Mulvaney said, paraphrased by Mr Collins. "We would be moving on to other parts of his agenda."

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The idea that Mr Trump, who had campaigned relentlessly on a pledge to bury Mr Barack Obama's signature legislative accomplishment, will wash his hands of the fight and let Obamacare stand is a startling departure from the party playbook.

But the take-it-or-leave-it approach could be part of his hardball strategy to get Republican rebels to fall in line.

A procedural vote on the bill was set for approximately 10am yesterday (10pm Singapore time), followed by a full floor vote in the afternoon.

The Trump team had repeatedly voiced optimism about the bill's prospects, saying it had made progress convincing doubters to join its camp.

But the votes weren't there.

"I am still a no at this time. I am desperately trying to get to yes," said Mr Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose members have demanded changes to the plan before giving their blessing.

Mr Meadows also revealed the width of the gap between Mr Trump and the plan's opponents. "We are trying to get another 30 to 40 votes that are currently in the no category to yes," Mr Meadows said after meeting with his caucus. - AFP

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