Trump weighs end­ing sub­si­dies

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WASH­ING­TON — The White House stepped up de­mands Sun­day for re­vived con­gres­sional ef­forts on health care and sug­gested sen­a­tors can­cel their en­tire sum­mer break, if needed, to pass leg­is­la­tion af­ter failed votes last week.

Aides said Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is pre­pared in the com­ing days to end re­quired pay­ments to in­sur­ers un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act as part of a bid to let “Oba­macare im­plode” and force the Se­nate to act.

It was all part of a week­end flurry of Trump tweets and oth-

er state­ments in­sist­ing the seven-year GOP quest to re­peal for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment was not over.

“The pres­i­dent will not ac­cept those who said it’s, quote, ‘Time to move on,’” White House ad­viser Kellyanne Con­way said. Those were the words used by Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., af­ter the early Fri­day morn­ing de­feat of the GOP pro­posal.

Con­way said Trump was de­cid­ing whether to act on his threat to end cost-shar­ing re­duc­tion pay­ments, which are aimed at trim­ming out-of-pocket costs for lower-in­come peo­ple. “He’s go­ing to make that de­ci­sion this week, and that’s a de­ci­sion that only he can make,” Con­way said.

For seven years, Repub­li­cans have promised that once they took power, they would scrap Obama’s over­haul and pass a re­place­ment. But that ef­fort crashed most re­cently in the Se­nate Fri­day, and that’s when McCon­nell said it was time to fo­cus on other pol­icy mat­ters.

Repub­li­cans hold a 52-48 ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, where no Democrats voted for the GOP bill and three Repub­li­cans de­fected in the fi­nal vote Fri­day. One of the GOP de­fec­tors, Sen. John McCain, has since re­turned to Ari­zona for treat­ment for brain can­cer,

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

White House bud­get di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney, when asked Sun­day if no other leg­isla­tive busi­ness should be taken up un­til the Se­nate acts again on health care, re­sponded “yes.”

While the House has be­gun a five-week re­cess, the Se­nate is sched­uled to work two more weeks be­fore a sum­mer break. McCon­nell has said the un­fin­ished busi­ness in­cludes ad­dress­ing a back­log of ex­ec­u­tive and ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions, com­ing ahead of a busy agenda in Septem­ber that in­volves pass­ing a de­fense spend­ing bill and rais­ing the gov­ern­ment’s bor­row­ing limit.

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

Trump warned over the week­end 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 law.

“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.

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 health law specif­i­cally in­cluded a con­gres­sional ap­pro­pri­a­tion for the money, as re­quired un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion. Trump has only guar­an­teed the pay­ments through July, which ends to­day.

Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine, one of the three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors who voted against the GOP health bill on Fri­day, said she’s trou­bled by Trump’s claims that the in­sur­ance pay­ments are a “bailout.” She said Trump’s threat to cut off pay­ments would not change her op­po­si­tion to the GOP health bill and stressed the cost-shar­ing re­duc­tion pay­ments were crit­i­cal to make in­sur­ance more af­ford­able 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 law­mak­ers to ap­pro­pri­ate money for the pay­ments.

“I cer­tainly hope the ad­min­is­tra­tion does not do any­thing in the mean­time to has­ten that col­lapse,” she added.

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-to-month 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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