CLEVELAND — Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday reiterated a promise to repeal former President Barack Obama's health care reforms by the end of the summer despite uncertainty over whether a Republican bill has enough votes to pass the Senate.
In a speech delivered at a Cleveland manufacturing facility, Pence defended the bill, saying its measures to expand health savings accounts and create tax credits would make insurance more affordable. He said the legislation would cut costs for businesses and give states flexibility to tailor Medicaid programs to local needs.
“(President Donald Trump) believes in state-based solutions, not one-size-fits-all Washington answers,” Pence said.
After Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell abandoned plans to bring the bill to a vote this week, fresh GOP critics came forward to attack the bill, with the number of Republican senators publicly complaining about it hitting double digits.
But despite strong party opposition, Pence said the Trump administration is continuing to make “great progress every single day.”
Pence's speech came a day after Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman declared his opposition to the bill, catching the senator in the crosshairs of a high-stakes intraparty fight.
Portman is among Republican senators facing intense pressure back home, targeted by demonstrators, advertisement campaigns and a verbal onslaught from Gov. John Kasich, who has spearheaded GOP criticism of the Senate bill.
Pence didn't criticize Portman. Instead, Pence took aim at Democrats, saying Obama's health reforms had driven up insurance premiums and deductibles and blaming them for obstructing health care reform.
“Obamacare has failed, and Obamacare must go,” Pence said. “You'd have to be a politician blinded by partisanship to believe otherwise. But, sadly, Congress is full of them.”
Democrats have roundly criticized the Republican plan to scrap the Obama health care law. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said, “Surely we can do better than what the Republican health care bill promises.”
In a nod to Ohio's drug overdose problems, Pence singled out opioids in his speech Wednesday, saying the bill would provide new resources to help fight mounting death tolls. Portman has expressed concerns about the impact of slashed Medicaid funding on Ohio's ability to battle the epidemic.
Pence, toward the end of his speech, urged his audience of about 200 people to contact their representatives to put pressure on them to roll back Obama's health care law.
Steven Simons, a 57-year-old paint worker at the workshop where Pence made his speech, said he had faith in the Trump administration's ability to repeal the Democratic former president's health care reforms.
“I know they ain't got it right yet, but they will get it right,” Simons said.
Simons said he's covered by employer health insurance and his coverage was reduced under Obama.
Pence also spoke about cutting taxes and bringing manufacturing jobs from overseas.
Earlier in the day, Pence participated in a round-table discussion with business leaders and toured the facility, Tendon Manufacturing, and spoke with workers who demonstrated a laser metal cutter and sheet metal fabricators.
Pence was on his fourth visit to Ohio since taking office in January.