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Trump aides, lawmakers hold talks to revive healthcare bill
[WASHINGTON] Top White House officials met with moderate and conservative Republicans in the US House of Representatives on Monday in an effort to revive a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Key members of the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, invited a group of moderate Republicans known as the "Tuesday Group" to the White House. Mr Pence then went to Capitol Hill to meet with the Freedom Caucus, a group of House conservatives who last month derailed a healthcare bill backed by President Donald Trump.
The White House would like to see a revised bill come up for a vote as early as week's end, before the House breaks for a spring recess, said US Representative Chris Collins, a member of the Tuesday Group.
"It was clear the president would be very happy come Friday to have this passed," Mr Collins, a Trump ally, told reporters on Monday, adding: "This could move fairly quickly".
Just 10 days ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to cancel a vote on a bill to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, when it was clear he could not deliver the votes needed for it to pass.
The defeat was a big political setback for Mr Trump and fellow Republicans in Congress who were elected on pledges to repeal and replace former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.
Freedom Caucus members said the Republican bill was too similar to Obamacare, while moderate Republicans balked at some of the changes conservatives sought.
Mr Trump late last week attacked Freedom Caucus members on Twitter for their opposition to the bill and threatened to work to defeat them in the 2018 congressional elections.
Over the weekend, he struck a more conciliatory tone, tweeting early on Sunday: "Talks on Repealing and Replacing Obamacare are, and have been, going on, and will continue until such time as a deal is hopefully struck".
After golfing with the president on Sunday, Republican Senator Rand Paul, a sharp critic of the Republicans' previous healthcare bill, also expressed renewed hope the healthcare bill could be revised in a way that picked up support from the conservative and moderate factions of his party.
I am "very optimistic that we are getting closer and closer to an agreement repealing Obamacare," Mr Paul told reporters.