Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price en route Beaver, WV
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Beaver, West Virginia
5:03 P.M. EDT
MS. SANDERS: We’ve got a couple special guests. I’m going to let -- I know we’re tight on time -- if we have to, we’ll come back on the way back and answer a few more questions, but I’m going to let Secretary Price kick off, give a little update on healthcare, talk about some of the stuff from today, and then I’ll answer questions after that.
SECRETARY PRICE: Well, it’s an honor to join President Trump on this trip to the Boy Scout Jamboree.
But regarding healthcare, we’ve had a number of conversations, obviously, over the weekend, and we’re looking forward to a positive vote tomorrow in the Senate. Senator McConnell has assured his members that the vote will occur, and the President is adamant about moving forward and getting on a bill so that we can have the debate, have the discussion, and move forward on behalf of the American people.
There are folks who are hurting out there. We had an event at the White House today that had a number of families -- four families from across the country, many with children -- who have been harmed by the current policies of Obamacare. So our goal is to fix that -- is to move in a better direction where patients and families and doctors are making medical decisions and not Washington, D.C. So we look forward to a positive outcome tomorrow.
MS. SANDERS: All right, we’ll take a few questions.
Q -- have Senator Lee’s vote now?
SECRETARY PRICE: Beg your pardon.
Q Do you think you have Senator Lee’s vote now?
SECRETARY PRICE: We look forward to having at least 50 votes in the Senate, and the Vice President will be there, obviously, tomorrow in order to break a tie if there is a tie. But you can’t begin to solve this challenge and crisis of Obamacare without voting to proceed on the legislation and having the debate. As the Vice President says, as the President says, this vote is to begin the debate on the repeal of Obamacare.
Q Senator Collins said yesterday that she hadn’t received a call from the President on this topic. Does the President plan to pick up the phone and call some senators himself?
SECRETARY PRICE: We’ve talked to virtually every single Republican senator. The Senator has been at the White House on a number of occasions. There have been conversations that have gone back and forth, so I think that the input that we have taken from senators has been extraordinary and, frankly, unprecedented. Having been involved in these healthcare conversations and debates for years, this is the greatest amount of involvement by a President that I have ever witnessed one-on-one with members of Congress -- both the House and the Senate.
Thank you, all.
MS. SANDERS: We’ll jump straight in -- since we’re short on time -- on other questions.
Q Can you talk a little bit about what’s going on in the Middle East? I know that we have some envoys over there, but the U.N. warned today that if things aren’t solved by Friday prayers, things could really spin out of control. What is the administration doing to try to lessen tensions in Jerusalem?
MS. SANDERS: Certainly an effort to deescalate is important. Jason Greenblatt has gone over -- arrived earlier today -- and we’re not going to get ahead of any conversations that he has, but he is meeting with a number of people while he’s there. And we’ll keep you guys updated as those meetings take place.
Q Sarah, what does the President mean when he said that Jeff Sessions was beleaguered? What did he mean by that?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think the President has been extremely clear about his position. I know I’ve answered this question a number of times over the last week. He’s very disappointed that Attorney General Sessions chose to recuse himself, and there’s not much more to add beyond what we’ve already said on the matter.
Q And there are some reports that he was at the White House today. Can you share any information about that?
MS. SANDERS: Sure. I can confirm he was at the White House, but he did not meet with the President while he was there today.
Q Does the President actually want Attorney General Sessions to open an investigation into Hillary Clinton or is he making a political point?
MS. SANDERS: I’m sorry?
Q Does the President actually want the Attorney General to open an investigation into Hillary Clinton or is he making a political point?
MS. SANDERS: I think that he would hope that the Department of Justice would look into any potential area where the law could have been broken, and if they think there’s a possibility of that, then certainly they should take a look.
Q Sarah, is the President going to sign the new sanctions bill?
MS. SANDERS: In regards to the sanctions bill, the President has been very vocal about his support for continuing sanctions on those three countries. He has no intention of getting rid of them, but he wants to make sure we get the best deal for the American people possible. Congress does not have the best record on that. I think you can look at NAFTA, you can look at the Iran deal, and the President wants to make sure that we actually get the best deal for the United States. And so he’s very focused on that, but at the same time wants to make sure that sanctions on those three countries remain, and he’s going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.
Q If it looks like it does now, does he approve of it?
MS. SANDERS: I’m sorry?
Q If it looks like it does now -- as they currently have it shaped and they plan to vote on it tomorrow, is he fine that -- he’s supportive of that, right?
MS. SANDERS: As I said, he’s looking over where it stands exactly at this point, and we’ll keep you guys posted on the decision. I think the important part of this is that the President very much supports sanctions on those countries and wants to make sure that those remain; but at the same time, wants to make sure that we get good deals. And those two things are both very important for the President.
Q Did the President talk to Jared Kushner after he came back from the Hill?
MS. SANDERS: I know that the President was very proud of Jared for voluntarily going to the Hill and being very transparent with every interaction that he’s had. He thought Jared did a great job and was very glad that he was able to go through that process and lay everything out and I think show the members of that committee, as well as everybody else, what a witch hunt and hoax this whole thing is. And we're going to continue pushing forward and focus on things the American people actually care about, and Russia is I don't think really it.
Q Did they talk afterwards?
MS. SANDERS: Again, I’m not sure if they talked, but I know that he watched and saw Jared’s statement and thought he did a great job.
Q -- statement that was made on the driveway, did he help craft it, or did he have any role in crafting it?
MS. SANDERS: Not that I’m aware of, but I’d have to check to be sure. I just don't know.
Q Sarah, the Secretary said the President has been more engaged than he’s seen in the past. Does the buck stop with the President whatever happens? Whether this passes or fails, is it the President’s responsibility on that?
MS. SANDERS: Sure, I’ll let Secretary Price weigh in. He’s said that --
SECRETARY PRICE: What was the question?
Q Does the buck stop with the President? You said he’s been more engaged than any President you've seen. So if this fails, is it his responsibility?
SECRETARY PRICE: Well, all of us in the administration understand and appreciate that the current healthcare system for the individual and small-group market and many in Medicaid just simply isn’t working. That's the President’s passion about this. He wants to fix this for the American people.
It’s not whether or not the patients are able to see the doctor that they want to see necessarily; it’s that he wants to fix the system itself. And so that's the charge that he’s given us.
Q Have Republicans done enough? Has the President done enough, the administration, too? Obviously, today the talk was a lot about the problems with Obamacare. Have you guys done enough to sell what the Senate is hoping to begin debate on this week, the new bill?
SECRETARY PRICE: Well, as I say, we've reached out to virtually every single senator who is interested in moving forward in a positive direction, the President has personally to so many. And the status quo is simply untenable. You can't have people that are paying premiums that have deductibles that they can't afford, so they have an insurance card, but they don't have any care. That's a system that may work for insurance companies. It may have worked for the previous administration. But it doesn't work for patients, and that's what we're trying to correct.
Q Have you done enough to sell to the public, though? The public polling is that the new bill looks even less popular than Obamacare. Do you think more needs to be done to explain to the American people what’s in the Senate bill?
SECRETARY PRICE: Well, when the opponents of what we're trying to do aren’t constrained by the truth, it’s a challenge. So we continue to put our message out there, the message that we believe that patients and families and doctors ought to be the ones making medical decisions -- not Washington, D.C.; the message that we believe that health coverage and care ought to be affordable and accessible to the American people of the highest quality and provide choices for patients.
That's not the system that we currently have in so many areas. That's why the President has such a passion for this.
Q Sarah, do you think we're going to see the steel report? Are we going to see the steel report this week?
MS. SANDERS: We’ll keep you posted when we have an announcement on that front.
Q Sarah, can you tell us about the President rejecting the Afghanistan plan that H.R. McMaster and the national security team presented to him this last week?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not going to weigh in on anything at this time, but we’ll certainly keep you guys posted as the progress moves forward on that front.
And we're about to land, so I’ll take one last question.
Q Are we going to have on-camera briefings from now on? Is this the new precedent?
MS. SANDERS: Look, we've always maintained the idea that we're going to do things in a way to get the message out. We've had a mix of both on- and off-camera briefings, and we’ll continue to do that and do our best to provide as many on-camera briefings as possible.
5:11 P.M. EDT