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Trump blames conservatives over Obamacare - and reaches out to Democrats

Donald Trump has savaged conservatives for the failure of the Republican bill to replace Barack Obama's health care law as aides signalled a greater willingness to work with moderate Democrats on upcoming battles such as the budget and tax cuts.

President Trump complained on Twitter: "Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!"

The Freedom Caucus is a hard-right group of more than 30 Republican House of Representatives members who were largely responsible for blocking the bill to undo the Affordable Care Act dubbed "Obamacare".

The bill was pulled from the House floor on Friday in a humiliating political defeat for Mr Trump, lacking support from conservative Republicans and Democrats.

In additional fall-out from the jarring setback, Texas Republican congressman Ted Poe said he was leaving the caucus, tweeting that some politicians "would've voted against the 10 Commandments".

"We must come together to find solutions to move this country forward," he said on Sunday. "Saying no is easy, leading is hard but that is what we were elected to do."

Mr Trump initially focused his blame on Democrats for the failure and predicted a dire future for the current law.

But on Sunday, his aides made clear that he would be seeking support from moderate Democrats, leaving open the possibility he could still revisit health care legislation.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus scolded conservative Republicans, explaining that Mr Trump had felt "disappointed" that a "number of people he thought were loyal to him that weren't".

"It's time for the party to start governing," he said. "I think it's time for our folks to come together and I also think it's time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well."

As he ponders his next steps, Mr Trump faces decisions on whether to back administrative changes to fix Obamacare or undermine it as prices for insurance plans rise in many markets.

Over the weekend, the president tweeted a promise of achieving a "great healthcare plan" because Obamacare would "explode".

Senate minority leader Charles Schumer said Democrats stood ready to work with Mr Trump to fix Obamacare if he was willing to drop attempts to repeal the law and not undermine it.

He warned that Mr Trump was destined to "lose again" on other parts of his agenda if he remained beholden to conservative Republicans.

"If he changes, he could have a different presidency," Mr Schumer said.

"But he's going to have to tell the Freedom Caucus and the hard-right special wealthy interests who are dominating his presidency he can't work with them, and we'll certainly look at his proposals."

Their comments came after another day of finger-pointing among Republicans.

On Saturday Mr Trump urged Americans in a tweet to watch Judge Jeanine Pirro's programme on Fox that night.

She led her show by calling for House speaker Paul Ryan to resign, blaming him for defeat of the bill in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Mr Priebus described the two events as "coincidental", insisting Mr Trump was helping out a friend by plugging her show and no "pre-planning" occurred.

"He doesn't blame Paul Ryan," Mr Priebus said. "In fact, he thought Paul Ryan worked really hard.

"He enjoys his relationship with Paul Ryan, thinks that Paul Ryan is a great speaker of the House."

A spokeswoman for Mr Ryan, AshLee Strong, said he and Mr Trump spoke for nearly an hour on Saturday and again on Sunday about moving forward on the agenda, saying "their relationship is stronger than ever right now".

In their Sunday conversation, Mr Trump "was clear his tweet had nothing to do with the speaker", Ms Strong said.

The White House faces a tall task in gaining support for its congressional agenda.

Mr Trump, for instance, now lacks the savings anticipated from the health care bill to help pay for tax cuts, while expected legislation to invest one trillion dollars in roads and infrastructure and to cut down on illegal immigration will probably need support from Democrats.

Mr Priebus said Mr Trump was looking ahead for now at debate over the budget and a tax plan, which he said would include a border adjustment tax and middle-class tax cuts.

"It's more or less a warning shot that we are willing to talk to anyone, we always have been," he said.

"I think more so now than ever, it's time for both parties to come together and get to real reforms in this country."

AP

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