Donald Trump on Thursday delayed his first trip home to New York as president to celebrate House passage of legislation undoing much of former President Barack Obama’s health law, a long-sought GOP goal and top Trump campaign promise.
He awaited jubilant Republicans at the White House for “a big press conference at the beautiful Rose Garden” before flying out of town.
House leaders came through with the votes to give Trump a major political victory more than a month after Republicans’ first attempt to pass a health care bill went down in a humiliating defeat. The legislation now heads to the Senate.
The developments pushed back Trump’s first-time meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull by several hours. The leaders also were to speak at a New York dinner commemorating the 75th anniversary of an important World War II battle.
Not everyone in heavily Democratic New York was happy about the Republican president’s visit, his first since he left in January to be sworn in as president. Multiple protests were planned.
Trump and Turnbull were expected to discuss North Korea’s missile testing and security and economic issues, as well as Turnbull’s deal with Obama for the United States to resettle up to 1,250 mostly Muslim refugees from Africa, the Mideast and Asia who are housed in immigration camps on the Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
The agreement was a source of friction when Trump and Turnbull spoke by telephone shortly after Trump took office Jan. 20. The conversation made headlines, and Trump later tweeted about the “dumb deal.” But Vice President Mike Pence assured Turnbull during a visit to Australia last month that the Trump administration will honor the deal, but “that doesn’t mean we admire the agreement.”
Trump campaigned against immigration, including by Muslims, and was enraged by the agreement.
The ties between the U.S. and Australia were reinforced during the Battle of the Coral Sea, when both countries’ warships and fighter planes battled the Japanese from May 4-8, 1942, forcing the Japanese navy to retreat for the first time in the war.
Trump and Turnbull were set to mark the 75th anniversary of that battle with speeches at a dinner aboard the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that fought in World War II.
Manhattan is where Trump made a name by transforming himself from real-estate developer into a celebrity businessman and now president. He hasn’t set foot in the city since leaving on Jan. 19 for Washington to be inaugurated into office the following day.
In the presidential race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump received 18 percent of the vote in the liberal city. Protests were planned near the USS Intrepid and Trump Tower, his Fifth Avenue home.
During the campaign, Trump would fly thousands of miles back to New York City to sleep in his own bed, leaving the impression that he would make frequent trips home after he became president. But Trump said in an interview last week that he so far has avoided returning to the city of his birth because the trips are expensive for the government and would inconvenience New Yorkers.
His revised schedule was to take him straight from a waterside heliport to the Intrepid, docked on the Hudson River and relatively isolated from the rest of the city. The elimination of the stop in Midtown for the original Turnbull meeting seemed likely to prevent many protesters from ever getting a look at the president or his motorcade.
Trump has received some criticism for spending about half of his weekends as president at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate. Trump’s wife, Melania, and son, Barron, live at Trump Tower most of the time while the 11-year-old finishes the school year.
The president was not expected to spend the night there, though he could drop in before going to his golf club an hour away in Bedminister, New Jersey. Trump last visited the New Jersey club during the presidential transition.