Trump talks healthcare with Republican critic on golf course

By Jan Pytalski

STERLING, Va. (Reuters) - President Donald Trump golfed with a vocal Republican critic of his healthcare push on Sunday, as he insisted efforts to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law were not dead.

Senator Rand Paul and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney joined the president at Trump National Golf Club outside of Washington. The trio was "discussing a variety of topics, including healthcare," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

The outing came hours after Trump tweeted that talks to rework the nation's healthcare law were still under way.

"Anybody (especially Fake News media) who thinks that Repeal & Replace of ObamaCare is dead does not know the love and strength in R Party!" Trump tweeted early on Sunday.

"Talk on Repealing and Replacing ObamaCare are, and have been, going on, and will continue until such time as a deal is hopefully struck," he added in a second message.

Republican-led efforts to replace Obama's healthcare law were thrown into disarray 10 days ago after Republican leaders in the House of Representative had to withdraw their own legislation ahead of a vote due to insufficient support from conservative and moderate members of their own party.

Trump had worked towards the bill's passage, but Paul had been a prominent critic and had aligned himself with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a group that helped torpedo Trump's first major legislative effort.

On Thursday, Trump had threatened to defeat members of the group in next year's congressional elections if they continued to defy him.

In an interview published on Sunday by the Financial Times, Trump was adamant he wanted to get a healthcare bill passed, and said he would turn his back on the Freedom Caucus and negotiate with Democrats if that is what it took.

"If we don't get what we want, we will make a deal with the Democrats," he said.

(Writing by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Mary Milliken and Andrea Ricci)

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