ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A new NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll shows President Trump's approval rating remains stuck below 40 percent, historically low for a president in his first year. The poll also finds the Senate Republican health care plan is doing even worse. Joining us now to talk about the new poll and the narrow road ahead for health care is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What did the NPR-PBS poll say about health care?
LIASSON: It found that the Senate health care bill is as unpopular as any Republican health care effort has been this year. Our poll found only 17 percent support it. And just in case you think that might be an outlier, it's not. Quinnipiac has a new poll today. Fifty-eight percent disapprove. Sixteen percent approve of the bill. And USA Today has a new poll where the Senate bill has only 12 percent support. And what's even more significant, Republicans in our poll - only 35 percent of them like the Senate plan.
SHAPIRO: Not even a majority of Republicans. And what does the poll say about President Trump?
LIASSON: Overall, he's at 37 percent. That's consistent with other polls. But it's also just only a little lower than where his approval ratings were when he got elected. This is what gives White House officials some comfort. The bottom hasn't fallen out for him. His base is holding. But it does offer some context for why the president seems to have less juice with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
You know, over time, a president who's unpopular has less sway with members of his own party, especially senators who run statewide and not in congressional districts where there can be more concentrated pockets of Trump supporters. You certainly saw that over the last couple of days when the president tried to close the deal on health care and he couldn't. Today he sounded a little less bullish on the prospects for the Senate bill. Here he is today at a White House meeting.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think we're going to get at least very close. And I think we're going to get it over the line.
LIASSON: That being said, everyone that I've talked to here is confident that in the end, just like what happened in the House after they pulled the bill, went home, came back and passed a second version - they think that will happen in the Senate simply because after seven years of voting on this and promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act, failure to pass it would be catastrophic politically.
SHAPIRO: So how does that happen? Describe what this narrow path ahead is.
LIASSON: The next thing that happens is Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is going to try to cobble together some side deals and then, by the end of this week, resubmit the bill to the Congressional Budget Office for a new score. That might help the bill become more popular if it shows fewer people uninsured. McConnell is expected to offer more money for opioid abuse for senators in states where that matters. For conservatives, he might add some flexibility for states on Medicaid or other ACA rules just the way that Paul Ryan did in the House.
Meanwhile, the president has not given a speech about why the Senate bill would be better than the ACA. His remarks have been limited to generalities, just attacking Obamacare as failing and promising that the Republican replacement will be really great.
SHAPIRO: So he hasn't given a speech defending this bill that he wants the Senate to pass. What has he been talking about?
LIASSON: He's been talking about a lot of other things today. Today he had an event about energy. It is actually Energy Week at the White House. He also met with family members of people who have been killed or hurt by illegal immigrants. This is a longstanding theme of his. So you'd have to say that this president doesn't have a laser focus on one policy issue. He has a kaleidoscopic focus.
And he started the day as he usually does - with a communication to the public about what's on his mind. He tweeted an attack on Amazon and The Washington Post, both owned by Jeff Bezos, falsely accusing Amazon of not paying Internet taxes. White House officials couldn't say what he meant by that since there isn't any such thing as an Internet tax. He might have been talking about state sales taxes, which Amazon does pay.
But one little clue about his thinking - he might be reacting to some Washington Post stories because he also tweeted, some of the fake news media like to say I am not totally engaged in health care - wrong. I know the subject well and want victory for U.S.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Mara Liasson, thank you.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.