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Trump warns Congress not to oppose healthcare plan

US President faces crucial House of Representatives vote today

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump warned fellow Republicans in the US Congress not to oppose his healthcare reforms in a key vote today.

In a significant flex of presidential muscle, Mr Trump warned House Republicans they will face the electorate's wrath if they do not vote to repeal and replace Obamacare today.

For years, Republicans have promised to overturn former president Barack Obama's reform, describing it as government overreach, but some lawmakers have balked at their own party's replacement plan.

Mr Trump warned they could lose their legislative control of Congress if they fail.

"Many of you came in on the pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare," Mr Trump said, according to a source.

"I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don't get this done."

Mr Trump is said to have added: "Honestly, a loss is not acceptable folks."

House Republican Chris Collins said Mr Trump didn't mince words in delivering the message to Republicans that the control of Congress was in the balance.

"The message was, if we don't get this done, we're going to lose the House and the Senate next year. He was that blunt," the New York Republican lawmaker said, referring to the 2018 mid-term elections.

"We deliver on this, then we do tax reform, then we pick up 10 Senate seats next year," Mr Collins said, recounting Mr Trump's words.

Mr Trump also singled out specific lawmakers who oppose him - including one-time supporter Mark Meadows - raising the spectre of the president opposing opponents' re-election. The stakes are also high for Mr Trump himself, with a failure calling his political clout into question.

The president has warned that tax reform - a goal of many Republicans - and reforming trade pacts depend on getting healthcare reform done. Victory would be a major boost for Mr Trump's credibility, proving he can translate deal making in business into deal making in government.

House Speaker Paul Ryan - one of the bill's architects and chief champions - has garnered support to repeal Mr Obama's healthcare plan signed into law in 2010, but there is less consensus about what should replace it. Mr Ryan indicated he was happy to have Mr Trump's support.

"President Trump was here to do what he does best, and that is to close the deal," said Mr Ryan, in a reference to Mr Trump's reputation as a businessman who drives a hard bargain.

"He is all in, and we are all in to end this Obamacare nightmare," said Mr Ryan, pointing out that repealing the healthcare reform was a promise made by numerous Republicans during the November presidential and congressional elections.

"We made a promise we would repeal and replace this disastrous law and we are going to keep our word," Mr Ryan said. If it passes, the Senate is expected to take up the measure early next month.

Opposition there is likely to be equally stiff. - AFP

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