WASHINGTON — Facing an enormous challenge in the Senate on health care, Donald Trump and his team are opting for a hands-off approach on legislation to dismantle the “Obamacare” law, instead putting their faith in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to deliver a legacy-defining victory.

“Sen. McConnell has said that he wants a vote next week and that’s up to him to run the chamber the way he sees fit. But the president is very supportive of the bill,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday.

The strategy follows Trump’s seat-of-the-pants approach on health care in the House that almost unraveled and exposed painful rifts among Republicans.

After a shaky start, the White House hopes the Senate debate will allow Trump to turn the page on health care and get a fresh start on rewriting the tax code, a plan to rebuild roads and bridges, and his promise to strengthen the military – none of which will prove easy to accomplish.

While health care is still unfinished, Trump took pride on Friday in signing a bill to make it easier to fire workers at the much-criticized Department of Veterans Affairs. He took to Twitter to boast of passing 38 bills thus far.

“I’ve done in five months what other people haven’t done in years,” Trump said in an interview that aired Friday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”

House GOP leaders say Trump was a big asset in getting the health care bill passed, despite a fight with the hard-right Freedom Caucus that stalled the measure.

“He’s more engaging, which means he has more personal relationships,” said No. 2 House Republican Kevin McCarthy of California. “He will tell you from the health care experience that he’s talked to almost every single member. If he sees somebody on TV and he thought they did something good, he’ll pick up the phone and just call them directly.”

But the Senate is even more complicated and Trump’s lack of interest in the nitty-gritty details of legislation is a liability.

When Trump suggested on Twitter in late May that Republicans should change the Senate rules to a simple majority vote to speed up the process, McConnell told the president to leave Senate business to him, according to three people familiar with the conversation. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private calls.

During a White House meeting last week with 13 Republican senators, Trump said the House version was “mean” and urged the senators to make it more generous.

But Trump didn’t articulate what improvements he wanted to see in the Senate bill, even as the comment ruffled feathers in the House.

Shortly after the Senate bill was released on Thursday, the challenges that lie ahead in the Senate came into view. If three of the Senate Republicans’ 52 members oppose the bill, it will fail.

Trump helped House leaders corral votes, but his ability to move more difficult-to-influence senators is untested. Several of them felt his lash during last year’s campaign or, like Portman and Susan Collins of Maine, have kept their distance from Trump.

The health care bill could underscore the perils of the president’s poor job approval ratings, which have hovered around 40 percent this year.


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