Heller gets the Trump treatment

Seated next to Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who is vulnerable in next year's midterm elections, President Donald Trump remarked: "He wants to remain a senator, doesn't he?" as Heller gave a strained grin. (NBC News)

“That wasn’t hard. That wasn’t hard,” said President Trump, after he shook hands Wednesday at the White House with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada.

Heller sat immediately to the President’s right, nearly four weeks after both he, and Governor Brian Sandoval, came out against the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Heller’s decision, in particular, made the prospects for passage in the Senate dicey, and this week the effort appeared all-but-doomed.

Which brings us to Wednesday’s White House lunch, where the President told Senators to keep working on a bill.

“This one was the one we were worried about," Trump said, motioning to Heller.

"Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he? And I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they’re going to appreciate what hopefully you’ll do," Trump continued.

Next to him, Heller, who was at first jovial, turned more serious at the lighthearted – and perhaps not-so-veiled – threat from a president. Heller is considered the most endangered GOP Senate incumbent up for reelection in 2018.

The two have some political history dating back to the campaign, in which Heller backed other candidates and was openly critical of Trump’s comments about immigrants and women. Heller was one of the Nevada Republicans, who, one October Saturday, publicly distanced themselves from Trump after the release of the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” video, which caught Trump talking about women in vulgar terms.

During the health care battle, Trump allies unveiled an ad attacking Heller, which brought a rebuke from Heller’s fellow Senate Republicans.

As for the Trump treatment he received Wednesday, “that’s fine – that’s President Trump being President Trump. I understand that,” Heller told reporters.

Next week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will bring an Obamacare repeal bill to the floor. On Wednesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said a repeal-only measure, without a replacement, would boost the number of uninsured in America by 32 million, while it would cut the budget deficit over ten years by more than $470 billion.

“Conversations are continuing and I remain committed to working on behalf of Nevadans and acting in the best interests of my state,” Heller said Wednesday in a statement.

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