GOP senators leave White House meeting ‘frustrated’

Skeptical Republican senators who visited the White House on Monday to discuss the American Health Care Act with senior administration officials left feeling “frustrated” by the message coming out of the West Wing, a Republican Senate aide familiar with the meeting told the Washington Examiner.

“Most of the senators there were frustrated because the [White House] basically communicated negotiations were over and that the bill would be forced on the Senate as is,” the aide said.

Sen. Mike Lee, one of six Republican lawmakers who attended the meeting, found the discussions “terribly frustrating,” a spokesman said.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Dean Heller of Nevada attended the meeting with Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, and legislative affairs staff, a White House official told the Washington Examiner. Several of the senators’ offices confirmed the meeting. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, according to his office, was scheduled to attend but missed his flight to Washington.

A White House official called the meeting “productive.”

The healthcare discussions come as a growing number of Senate Republicans have talked about their reservations about voting for the Obamacare reform legislation as written.

Trump’s team has repeatedly stressed the fluid nature of the Obamacare repeal and replace plan as conservative lawmakers in the House and Senate have telegraphed their doubts about the AHCA as written.

But the meeting Monday with lawmakers marked the first time opponents of the healthcare legislation have come away with the sense that the Trump administration was not willing to play ball.

Over the weekend, Cruz, Lee and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows met with White House officials at Mar-a-Lago in what soures described as an encouraging sign that the administration — and Bannon in particular — was receptive to conservative critiques of the healthcare bill.

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