After bitter feud, Kasich and Trump try to mend fences

Deirdre Shesgreen
Ohio Gov. John Kasich responds to questions from members of the media outside the White House following his meeting with President Trump on Feb. 24, 2017.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and President Trump did not exactly have a Kumbaya moment at the White House on Friday.

But the two men did manage a thaw in their otherwise frosty relationship during a substantive meeting in the Oval Office, where they discussed everything from Obamacare to America's commitment to its European allies.

Their private tête-à-tête comes after months of bitter public feuds and sharp political clashes, throughout the presidential campaign and into Trump's tenure at the White House.

Asked whether his opinion of Trump has changed, Kasich compared it to being on an airplane with Trump as the pilot.

"You want to root for the pilot if you’re on the airplane," the Ohio governor said. "You don’t want the pilot to screw up."

He said Trump was very responsive to his concerns about the GOP's push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which has allowed 700,000 Ohioans to gain insurance since its enactment. Kasich has publicly called on Republicans in Congress to preserve the Medicaid expansion, which he says has helped improve health outcomes for low-income Ohioans.

"He was very open to it and asked a number of questions," Kasich said. He said as a result of their meeting, Kasich will have a follow-up session on Saturday with Trump's Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, and the president's chief of staff.

Kasich slammed a draft replacement plan crafted by House Republicans, which calls for a rollback of the Medicaid expansion and a phase-out of federal subsidies to help low-income individuals purchase insurance.

"It’s inadequate," he said. "To me it’s not acceptable. I don’t know what they can jam through ... but I don’t agree with that."

Kasich declined to say whether he thought Trump's presidency had gotten off to a successful start.

"It takes time for people to get stabilized," he said. But the governor said he will continue to speak out if he disagrees with the president's policies, saying that doesn’t mean he's "trying to pull him down."

"Sometimes being constructive is to not be positive, to make your point," Kasich said.

After losing to Trump in the GOP primary, the Ohio governor refused to vote for Trump in the November election, casting a ballot for Arizona Sen. John McCain instead. Although Kasich attended Trump's inauguration and has said the country should give Trump a chance, he has continued to criticize the president's policies.

He called Trump's executive order on immigration "ham-handed" and said it sent a message the United States "was looking sideways at Muslims." And last weekend, Kasich said Trump's "loose words" about America's commitment to NATO and European allies had caused confusion and uncertainty.

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