President Donald Trump will not embrace a specific plan to replace Obamacare or overhaul the country’s tax code in his major speech Tuesday night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told GOP officials, but will make an aggressive case for building infrastructure and increasing school choice.
“The overarching theme is economic opportunity and job creation,” Spicer said in a briefing to aides on Capitol Hill, according to audio obtained by POLITICO.
Spicer depicted the speech as fairly lengthy — 70 to 80 minutes, with Trump still revising and writing Tuesday afternoon — but light on details and more about the president’s vision. He said Trump would frequently mention that the country turns 250 years old “in nine years,” and ask questions about where the public wants to be then.
“I don’t think you’re going to see that level of specificity,” Spicer said about the border adjustment tax being pushed by Speaker Paul Ryan. “He’s going to outline the broad contours,” Spicer said about health care, explaining the president would not embrace a specific plan.
Instead, Trump will make a bipartisan pitch to encourage Democrats to work with Republicans on fixing Obamacare, building infrastructure and crafting an immigration reform bill. The president plans to cast education as a civil rights issue in a push for school choice and will ask Democrats and Republicans alike to consider sending him an immigration bill.
“Infrastructure should be something that the Democrats largely welcome,” Spicer said. Trump will say health care needs to be a “bipartisan” effort, Spicer said.
The president’s aides have wrestled over competing repeal-and-replace proposals in recent weeks, and lawmakers have urged the president to give them details so they can hash out legislation.
Spicer said the speech “touches on” the national debt and manned space flight but didn’t give specifics. Trump does not plan to “touch on” the new executive order expected later this week on the travel ban that’s been frozen by the courts, Spicer told Capitol Hill officials. He declined to say when the president will release the new executive order on immigration but promised it would not be Tuesday night. “We want to be very strategic about it,” Spicer said.
While the president will address the need to pull back on other spending to ramp up military spending, the president won’t outline potential cuts to other federal programs. In “very top line” terms, the president will address why he wants more military spending, Trump told the aides.
“Until we get feedback from the departments and agencies, we don’t want to get into the specifics about where we found reductions and savings,” he said.
The trek to Capitol Hill, where Spicer was accompanied by communications director Mike Dubke, was to build support for the speech on Capitol Hill and across the country. Dubke encouraged lawmakers to applaud if Democrats disrupt the speech and asked lawmakers to say positive things about the speech in local news media. Spicer encouraged legislators to tweet and said the White House would re-tweet some posts.
He faced largely warm questions — and no-follow ups when he didn’t answer with specifics.
“This isn’t like mine,” Spicer said of the podium at the beginning of the meeting. “Does it move?” he quipped to widespread laughter, referencing Melissa McCarthy, who impersonates him on Saturday Night Live and drives a podium to attack reporters who ask questions.
“This is a lot nicer than a briefing,” Spicer said, laughing. He added: “It’s obvious the more we can flood the zone, the better. We know what we’re facing, if you haven’t watched a briefing,” he said.
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