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Trump's boldest campaign promises are getting a reality check

Michael A. Memoli and Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- During his campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly promised voters a "big, beautiful wall," an Obamacare replacement "immediately" and a new era for a Veterans Affairs agency that had "failed" service members.

He acknowledged Wednesday that none of it would be so simple.

Trump, who was often content to gloss over details while campaigning, is quickly grappling with the complexities of governing. Though Republicans will have majorities in the House and Senate and control of the White House for the first time in 10 years, fissures have begun to emerge on how to deliver on their campaign promises.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act, a Trump priority and the animating force within the GOP since the law passed six years ago, has run into roadblocks since Congress convened last week. The debate centers on whether to repeal immediately without a replacement plan, which would leave millions of Americans without health care.

Trump said he would produce his own plan as soon as his Health and Human Services secretary takes office -- something that could take weeks -- just one day after demanding that Republicans both repeal and replace the health law as soon as next week. He promised that both parts would happen together.

"It'll be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously," he said, calling such a move "very complicated stuff."

Republican leaders have considered a more staggered approach where they would pass repeal legislation now that would allow them as much as two years and perhaps more time to develop a replacement.

"We need to do this right. We need to make sure there is a stable transition period so that people do not have the rug pulled out from under them," House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said. "This is how we will keep our promise."

The strategy is already in jeopardy. Resistance is growing among Republicans to take a first step toward repeal, approving a procedural budget package. The move had been expected later this week, but some lawmakers are worried that it will set a repeal in place before an alternative is ready. A preliminary whip count showed the budget vote was in trouble.

"You can't repeal it and replace it quickly. That's an oxymoron," said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., one of the earliest Trump backers in Congress. "He wants us moving it through so we can put it on his desk right away."

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