PHILADELPHIA – President Donald Trump said Democrats should be grateful that Republicans were taking steps to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, removing what he said would be a political albatross from around their necks in a show of magnanimity.
"Every time they try to tell you about Obamacare, we're getting them out of a big jam," Trump told congressional Republicans at their annual retreat here Thursday. "We're taking a risk, taking it off their plates."
Notable members of 115th Congress
Notable members of 115th Congress
Freshman members of the incoming U.S. 114th Congress Mia Love (R-UT) (L) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) huddle together in freezing temperatures after participating in a class photo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington in a November 18, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/Files
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds the gavel upon being re-elected speaker in the House chamber on the first day of the new session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) carries her daughter Abigail during a mock swearing in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the opening day of the 115th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) takes the stage to speak during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) talks to journalist after attending the Senate Democrat party leadership elections at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S. November 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) participates in a mock swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the opening day of the 115th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Rand Paul speaks at a campaign rally in the Olmsted Center at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank/File Photo
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to reporters during the opening day of the 115th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) participates in a mock swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the opening day of the 115th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters after she was re-elected to her post on Wednesday, despite a challenge from Rust Belt congressman Tim Ryan who said the party needed new leadership, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference in Riga, Latvia December 28, 2016. Picture taken December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks at a news conference with a bipartisan group of senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., to unveil a compromise proposal on gun control measures, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to reporters as Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd R) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (R) stand with him following their meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on congressional Republicans' effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)(R) holds a copy of the letter Senate Republicans sent to Iran as he and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speak after a vote failed to advance debate on a nuclear agreement with Iran on Capitol Hill in Washington September 10, 2015. A Republican-backed measure to derail the Iran nuclear agreement was blocked in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, in a major foreign policy victory for Democratic President Barack Obama. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Trump said he had considered letting the law – which Republicans regularly say is "collapsing" and hurting millions of Americans – limp along for the next two years so they could use it as a political cudgel in the 2018 elections.
"I actually talked to [Speaker of the House Paul Ryan] about just doing nothing for two years and Democrats would come begging to do something," Trump said. "In two years, it would explode like you've never seen an explosion. That's politically what we should do."
Speaking for about 25 minutes in a downtown Philadelphia hotel ballroom, Trump also bragged about winning Pennsylvania after so many of his fellow Republicans tried and failed to do so for the past several decades.
He predicted the upcoming term would be the "busiest Congress in decades, maybe ever," that had a "chance to deliver lasting change for our beloved nation."
His border wall, and his decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation free trade agreement that would have been the largest in the world, were steps to "restore the civil rights of Americans, to protect their jobs, their hopes and their dreams, for their future," Trump said.
At one point, he repeated his promise to reduce crime in the "inner cities," such as Chicago, where he has said he would "send in the feds" if the Windy City "doesn't fix the horrible carnage."
"What's going on in Chicago? What the hell is going on?" he said to lawmakers. A member in the audience shouted "Democrats!" to laughter in the room.
And he hinted at his complaints about voter fraud, which he claims was behind millions of illegal votes and cost him the popular vote in November's election.
"We need to keep the ballot box safe from illegal voting," he said. "We're going to protect the integrity of the ballot box and protect the votes of the American citizen."