Trump has new chief of staff, old health care fight

El Dorado News-Times - - From 1a -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is look­ing for a fresh start with a new White House chief of staff. But he's still cling­ing to an old bat­tle, re­fus­ing to give up on health care.

Weighed down by a stalled leg­isla­tive agenda, a ca­bal of in­fight­ing West Wing aides and a stack of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Trump is hop­ing that re­tired Gen. John Kelly can bring some or­der as his next chief of staff. Trump tapped Kelly, his Home­land Se­cu­rity sec­re­tary, last week to take over for Reince Priebus, who he ul­ti­mately viewed as in­ef­fec­tive.

Start­ing Mon­day, Kelly must try to ex­ert con­trol over a chaotic White House, but his abil­ity to do so will de­pend on how much au­thor­ity he is granted and whether Trump's duel­ing aides will put aside their ri­val­ries to work to­gether. Also un­clear is whether a new chief of staff will in­flu­ence the pres­i­dent's so­cial me­dia histri­on­ics or his strug­gle to keep his fo­cus on pol­icy.

A bat­tle-hard­ened com­man­der, Kelly is en­ter­ing a West Wing bat­tered by cri­sis. Over the past week, Trump's new com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, An­thony Scara­mucci, at­tacked Priebus in a pro­fan­ity-laden tirade, Trump drew crit­i­cism for his pub­lic at­tacks on At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and the lat­est ef­fort by Se­nate Repub­li­cans to over­haul the na­tion's health care law bombed.

Speak­ing on CNN's "State of the Union" Sun­day, White House bud­get di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney praised Priebus, but said Trump "wants a lit­tle bit more dis­ci­pline, a lit­tle more struc­ture in there. You know that he en­joys work­ing with gen­er­als."

For­mer Trump cam­paign man­ager Cory Le­wandowski, who was ousted from the cam­paign in 2016, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he ex­pected Kelly would "re­store or­der to the staff" but also stressed that Trump was un­likely to change his style.

"I say you have to let Trump be Trump. That is what has made him suc­cess­ful over the last 30 years. That is what the Amer­i­can peo­ple voted for," Le­wandowski said. "And any­body who thinks they're go­ing to change Don­ald Trump doesn't know Don­ald Trump."

Kelly starts his new job as ten­sions es­ca­late with North Korea. The United States flew two su­per­sonic bombers over the Korean Penin­sula on Sun­day in a show of force against North Korea, fol­low­ing the coun­try's lat­est in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile test. The U.S. also said it con­ducted a suc­cess­ful test of a mis­sile de­fense sys­tem lo­cated in Alaska.

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, D-Calif., said on CBS' "Face the Na­tion" Sun­day that she hopes Kelly can "be ef­fec­tive," and "be­gin some very se­ri­ous ne­go­ti­a­tion with the North and stop this pro­gram."

But even with a new in­com­ing chief of staff, Trump con­tin­ued to push Repub­li­cans sen­a­tors on health care over the week­end af­ter their lat­est ef­fort to pass leg­is­la­tion to over­haul "Oba­macare" col­lapsed. On Twit­ter Sun­day, Trump said: Don't give up Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors, the World is watch­ing: Re­peal & Re­place."

The pro­tracted health care fight has slowed Trump's other pol­icy goals, in­clud­ing a tax over­haul and in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment. But Trump aides made clear that the pres­i­dent still wanted to see ac­tion on health care. Mul­vaney ar­gued against Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell's state­ment that it is time to move on, say­ing on CNN that sen­a­tors "need to stay, they need to work, they need to pass some­thing."

Asked if it was White House pol­icy that noth­ing should be voted on in Congress un­til the Se­nate votes again on health care, Mul­vaney said: "well, think — yes. And I think what you're see­ing there is the pres­i­dent sim­ply re­flect­ing the mood of the peo­ple."

On Sat­ur­day Trump tweeted that if "a new Health Care Bill is not ap­proved quickly, BAILOUTS for In­sur­ance Com­pa­nies and BAILOUTS for Mem­bers of Congress will end very soon!"

Trump has only guar­an­teed re­quired pay­ments to in­sur­ance com­pa­nies through July. The pay­ments re­duce de­ductibles and co-pay­ments for con­sumers with mod­est in­comes. An­a­lysts have said that with­out the pay­ments, more in­sur­ers might drop out of the sys­tem, lim­it­ing op­tions for con­sumers and clear­ing the way for the in­sur­ers who stay to charge more for cover­age.

Asked about the pay­ments go­ing for­ward, Health Sec­re­tary Tom Price said on ABC's "This Week" on Sun­day that no de­ci­sion has been made. He de­clined fur­ther com­ment, cit­ing a law­suit brought by House Repub­li­cans over whether the Af­ford­able Care Act specif­i­cally in­cluded a con­gres­sional ap­pro­pri­a­tion for the money, as re­quired un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion.

White House coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way said on "Fox News Sun­day" that Trump would make a de­ci­sion on the pay­ments this week.

Sen. Su­san Collins, R-Maine, who op­posed the ef­forts to move a health bill for­ward this week, said on CNN that cut­ting the pay­ments would "be detri­men­tal to some of the most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens" and that the threat has "con­trib­uted to the in­sta­bil­ity in the in­sur­ance mar­ket."

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