Trump promises 'busiest Congress in decades' as GOP rolls out agenda

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."

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."

And he characterized the canceled meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as a mutual decision to postpone, after Pena Nieto publicly announced he would not visit Washington in light of Trump's insistence Mexico would pay to build a wall along the border.

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."

Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report