White House to Se­nate: Pass health care bill now or else

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Hope Yen

WASH­ING­TON» The White House in­ten­si­fied de­mands Sun­day that the Se­nate re­sume ef­forts to re­peal and re­place for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, suggest­ing that law­mak­ers can­cel their en­tire Au­gust re­cess, if needed, to pass leg­is­la­tion af­ter a stun­ning se­ries of failed votes last week.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., has de­clared that it was “time to move on” from health care, sched­ul­ing de­bate early this week on ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions.

But White House aides said Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was not giv­ing up on the health re­peal ef­fort. They in­di­cated that he re­mained ready in the com­ing days to end re­quired pay­ments to in­sur­ance com­pa­nies un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act as part of a bid to let “Oba­macare im­plode” and force the Se­nate to act.

Trump is “go­ing to make that de­ci­sion this week,” White House ad­viser Kellyanne Con­way said, re­gard­ing the in­sur­ance com­pany pay­ments. “The pres­i­dent will not ac­cept those who say, quote, ‘It’s time to move on.’ ”

For seven years, Repub­li­cans have promised that once they took power, they would scrap Obama’s health law and pass a re­place­ment. But that ef­fort crashed in the Se­nate most re­cently early Fri­day — prompt­ing McCon­nell to

de­clare it’s time to fo­cus on other pol­icy mat­ters.

In a Se­nate where Repub­li­cans hold a 52-48 ma­jor­ity, no Democrats voted for the GOP bill and three Repub­li­cans de­fected in the fi­nal vote early Fri­day.

Trump said in a tweet, “Don’t give up Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, the World is watch­ing.”

Asked if no other leg­isla­tive busi­ness should be taken up un­til the Se­nate acts again on health care, White House bud­get di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney on Sun­day re­sponded “yes” and sug­gested the Se­nate con­tinue work­ing through Au­gust if nec­es­sary. While the House has be­gun a five-week re­cess, the Se­nate is sched­uled to work an­other two weeks. McCon­nell has said the un­fin­ished busi­ness in­cludes ad­dress­ing a back­log of ex­ec­u­tive and ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions, be­fore a busy agenda in Septem­ber that in­volves pass­ing a de­fense spend­ing bill and rais­ing the debt limit.

“In the White House’s view, they can’t move on in the Se­nate,” Mul­vaney said. “They need to stay, they need to work, they need to pass some­thing.”

Trump over the week­end warned that he would end fed­eral sub­si­dies for health care in­sur­ance for Congress and the rest of the coun­try if the Se­nate didn’t act soon. He was re­fer­ring in part to a fed­eral con­tri­bu­tion for law­mak­ers and their staffs, who were moved onto Oba­macare in­sur­ance ex­changes as part of the 2010 Af­ford­able Care Act.

“If a new HealthCare Bill is not ap­proved quickly, BAILOUTS for In­sur­ance Com­pa­nies and BAILOUTS for Mem­bers of Congress will end very soon!” Trump tweeted Sat­ur­day.

The sub­si­dies, to­tal­ing about $7 bil­lion a year, help re­duce de­ductibles and co­pay­ments for con­sumers with mod­est in­comes. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion used its rule-mak­ing au­thor­ity to set di­rect pay­ments to in­sur­ers to help off­set th­ese costs. Trump in­her­ited the pay­ment struc­ture, but he also has the power to end them.

The pay­ments are the sub­ject of 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. Trump has only guar­an­teed the pay­ments through July, which ends Mon­day.

Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine, who was one of three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors vot­ing against the GOP health bill on Fri­day, said she’s trou­bled by Trump’s sug­ges­tions that the in­sur­ance pay­ments are a “bailout.” She said Trump’s threat to cut off the pay­ments would not af­fect her op­po­si­tion to the GOP bill and stressed the in­sur­ance pay­ments were crit­i­cal to trim out-of-pocket costs for low-in­come peo­ple.

“The un­cer­tainty about whether that sub­sidy is go­ing to con­tinue from month to month is clearly con­tribut­ing to the desta­bi­liza­tion of the in­sur­ance mar­kets, and that’s one thing that Congress needs to end,” said Collins, who wants Congress to ap­pro­pri­ate money for the pay­ments. “I cer­tainly hope the ad­min­is­tra­tion does not do any­thing in the mean­time to has­ten that col­lapse.”

Trump pre­vi­ously said the law that he and oth­ers call “Oba­macare” would col­lapse im­me­di­ately when­ever those pay­ments stop. He has in­di­cated a de­sire to halt the sub­si­dies but so far has al­lowed them to con­tinue on a month-tomonth ba­sis.

Con­way spoke on “Fox News Sun­day,” Mul­vaney ap­peared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and Collins was on CNN as well as NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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