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Highlights: White House’s Sanders briefs reporters off camera

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during an off-camera press briefing at the White House on July 18. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo


The White House reeled on Tuesday from the sudden collapse of the Senate’s push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and President Donald Trump acknowledged he was “very disappointed” with the latest blow to his stalled legislative agenda.

Principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed reporters off camera Tuesday afternoon at the White House as Republicans on Capitol Hill scrambled to map the path forward.

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The White House has not held a televised briefing since June 29.

Here are the key moments.

“Democrats.” That’s who Sanders blamed for the current standstill over Obamacare as the Senate bill appears dead. Democrats have refused to help Republicans repeal Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, which Sanders declared “unacceptable.”

“They’re responsible for passing Obamacare. They’re responsible for the mess we’re in,” she said.

Asked what she would say to Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito, Republicans who supported repeal two years ago but are withholding support now, Sanders said simply: “Do your job.”

“Government always moves slower than it should,” Sanders said of lessons the White House has learned from the health care process.

“We should be very proud of the progress we’ve made in the first six months,” she said. “The process of reforming health care is certainly not over.”

Sanders would not say whether the administration will continue to funding key cost-sharing subsidies that help stabilize insurance markets, or whether the White House will take other steps to try and harm the Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t think that the White House has to take any actions for Obamacare to collapse,” Sanders said.

Even as health care reform languishes, the White House continues to express confidence in the prospect of tax reform, Sanders said.

Trump intends to engage in “ongoing, regular, consistent contact with members of Congress” as the process moves forward, Sanders said. “Ideally some Democrats will want to participate.”

But she would not say the White House is moving on from health care.

“We’re going to continue pushing forward on tax reform and laying out that plan,” Sanders said. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We’re not done with the health care battle.”

About 30 minutes into the briefing, John Roberts of Fox News rose from his seat in the front row of the briefing room and walked to the door.

Sanders joked that he must have been getting “bored” if he was leaving. Roberts shot back that if the briefing was on camera, he might have hung around. He later tweeted that he had to appear on television.

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