Trump reaches out to lawmakers on healthcare as another says ‘no’

By Jeff Mason and Yasmeen Abutaleb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump made calls to fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Friday to mobilize support for their party’s healthcare overhaul while acknowledging the legislation is on a “very, very narrow path” to passage.

Five Republican senators have announced they will not support the bill, which is designed to repeal and replace Obamacare, in its current form.

White House officials said on Friday that Trump has been in touch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and made calls on Thursday and Friday to other lawmakers.

Trump’s role is expected to become more pronounced in coming days as the vote nears. Senate Republican leaders may rely on the deal-making former businessman to lean on conservative senators who are balking at the bill.

“We’re pleasantly surprised with a lot of the support that’s already come out and I think we’ll continue to work through (it,) in particular the four individuals who have expressed some ideas and concerns,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at a White House briefing.

With all Democrats expected to oppose the measure, the Republicans can afford to lose the support of only two of their 52 members if they want to pass the legislation.

After Spicer spoke, Republican Senator Dean Heller became the fifth Republican opponent on Friday, saying he would not support the bill in its current form.

“This bill that’s currently in front of the United States Senate is not the answer,” Heller, a moderate who is up for re-election in 2018, said at a news conference in Las Vegas.

That could add Heller’s name to Trump’s call list. A White House official said the Trump has pushed his team to stay involved and plans to flex his negotiating muscle, the official said.

An outside political group aligned with the White House, America First Policies, said it is planning an advertising campaign targeting Heller for his opposition to the bill.

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