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NRCC chair: 'Clear' mistake by Republicans to push healthcare reform first

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When asked if healthcare could resurface, Rep. Steve Stivers said it's possible, but said, "I doubt it." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, says it was a mistake for House Republicans to try to tackle healthcare reform first this year instead of other topics, including tax reform, and cast doubt on the idea that the Senate would be able to pass any Obamacare repeal bill this year.

"Oh, in hindsight, it's clear," Stivers, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told the Washington Examiner when asked if it was a mistake to attempt healthcare reform first. "But it is what it is. You had to do them in some order."

"I would argue healthcare is pretty much..." Stivers said before catching himself. "We're shifting focus," he added, referring to issues like tax reform and other more achievable goals.

When asked if healthcare could resurface, he said it's possible, but said, "I doubt it."

"I think we're moving on to tax reform," he said. "It's time to move on to things we can get done and the Senate can get done. The Senate couldn't pass the skinny repeal bill. It is what it is. It time to move to — we have precious time given to us by our voters. We need to focus on the things we can get done."

Stivers said healthcare is a tricky issue for Republicans as 2018 approaches, one that suggests that the GOP is unable to govern. The Senate has been unable to coalesce around a bill since the House passed the American Health Care Act in early May.

"I think it worries some people because some American citizens are losing confidence in our ability to get things done," Stivers said. "We need to reclaim their confidence and regain their confidence by getting things done. Healthcare was always the hardest of all the topics we were dealing with. There's just no consensus. We had a plan out there, but it didn't have 218 co-sponsors. It passed the House, but it didn't have the 50 votes needed, plus the vice president, in the Senate."

"In the end, the American people, I think, are willing to forgive us for not getting everything done, but they're not willing to accept us getting nothing done," he said. "It raises the stakes on tax reform. It raises the stakes on infrastructure. It raises the stakes on some welfare reform that we're going to do as part of tax reform. So it makes it important that we get those things done."

His comments come just weeks before Republicans are expected to push a tax reform plan for the first time since 1986. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday that there could be an announcement next week on a tax reform proposal from the White House. Lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, are also expected to be involved on the issue after they return to Washington after Labor Day.