WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday bluntly derided a House attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act as “mean,” and in doing so, injected himself in a brewing Senate battle that his fellow Republicans had prayed he would avoid.
At a White House lunch with more than a dozen Republican senators, Mr. Trump alerted his guests that a bill passed by the House this spring — one he lauded last month in the Rose Garden as a “great plan” that was “very, very incredibly well-crafted” — was now “mean.”
He also informed the lawmakers, who represented politically diverse views from across the Republican spectrum, that he expected the Senate to come up with something more generous, according to four congressional aides who were briefed on the discussion and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
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“I really appreciate what you’re doing to come out with a bill that’s going to be a phenomenal bill for the people of our country: generous, kind, with heart,” Mr. Trump told his guests in the Cabinet Room. “That’s what I’m saying. And that may be adding additional money into it.”
It was unclear to lawmakers what Mr. Trump meant by “generous,” although it seemed a likely reference to tax credits that would make health insurance more affordable.
The White House declined to comment.
The divisions facing a health care overhaul in the Senate are many. Senators from states that expanded the Medicaid program are not eager to roll it back. At the same time, however, other senators are angling to use the process of repealing President Barack Obama’s signature health care law as an inroad to greatly curtail the nation’s Medicaid program writ large.
On Tuesday, it seemed that Mr. Trump was putting his finger on the scale with the more moderate members by criticizing a bill he celebrated with more conservative House Republicans. Senators, who are growing increasingly indifferent to Mr. Trump’s policy interests, did not seem moved by his entreaties, the congressional aides said.
But it did give fodder to Democrats who are likely to revel in Mr. Trump’s derision of his party’s bill.
The House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, did not pass up such a gift from the president. She wrote on Twitter that Trumpcare, as she called it, was “not only ‘mean,’ but a moral monstrosity.”
“The Senate bill is just as cruel,” she added, although no bill text has been released.
Republican senators were already planning to make their bill more generous, at least relative to the House bill, known as the American Health Care Act. At the Capitol, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Republicans were hard at work on their legislation, although he did not divulge any specifics about it.
“Our goal here is to move forward quickly,” he said. “The status quo is unsustainable.”
The Congressional Budget Office found that the bill passed by the House would leave 14 million more people uninsured next year than under the Affordable Care Act, and 23 million more in 2026. It also said that the House bill would cut more than $800 billion from projected federal spending on Medicaid over the next 10 years and that less healthy people could face “extremely high premiums,” as would some older Americans.
For example, the budget office said, for a typical 64-year-old with an annual income of $26,500, the net premium in 2026 — after tax credits — would average about $16,000 a year under the House bill, compared with $1,700 under the Affordable Care Act.
Doctors and hospitals opposed the House bill, as did groups like the American Cancer Society and AARP. Senate Republicans immediately dismissed the House overhaul and pledged to write their own replacement for the health law.
Senate Republicans have been working for weeks on proposals that they say could soften the effects of the House bill by providing more financial assistance to low-income people and older Americans to help them pay for insurance.
But some Republican senators are eager to keep a provision of the House bill that would let states opt out of a federal requirement for insurers to provide certain minimum health benefits.
In such states, the budget office said, “out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars” for some consumers.
Eager to show progress on a central legislative goal, Mr. Trump had leaned on House Republicans to push their bill through the chamber, despite reservations from many members and intense pressure from constituents who wanted the health law to remain in place. But with his description on Tuesday, Mr. Trump suddenly seemed in step with Democrats who were unable to stop the House bill.
Asked about Mr. Trump’s comment, AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Speaker Paul D. Ryan, focused on the shortcomings of the law the House bill is meant to replace.
“Congressional Republicans, with President Trump’s support, are working to repeal and replace this terrible Obamacare law that is harming Americans,” Ms. Strong said.