Trump punts health care until after 2020 – POLITICO – POLITICO
President Donald Trump signaled Monday that congressional Republicans would wait until after the 2020 elections to vote on a GOP replacement for Obamacare — putting off a presumably savage legislative battle on a hot-button campaign issue until after his re-election bid.
“Everybody agrees that ObamaCare doesn’t work. Premiums & deductibles are far too high – Really bad HealthCare! Even the Dems want to replace it, but with Medicare for all, which would cause 180 million Americans to lose their beloved private health insurance,” the president tweeted.
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“The Republicans … are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare,” Trump continued. “In other words it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win … back the House.”
Trump claimed that the as-yet-unseen Republican proposal “will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America,” writing online that “Republicans will always support Pre-Existing Conditions.”
The unexpected string of tweets added new drama to a week that has seen Obamacare return to the fore as a policy issue.
The president’s pledge comes days after his Justice Department endorsed a federal court ruling to eliminate the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, moving to invalidate the landmark health care law despite objections within Trump’s orbit from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General William Barr. The ruling by District Judge Reed O’Connor had suggested that the Obamacare statute, which has passed muster with the Supreme Court, was actually wholly unconstitutional.
The president appeared on Capitol Hill the next day, declaring that the Republican Party “will soon be known as the party of health care.”
Trump’s call to again put Obamacare repeal on the table for Hill Republicans was seen as a potential disaster-in-the making by GOP leaders, who knew their incumbents and candidates were hurt by it badly last November. And it was an invitation to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to pound home the issue once more, as she plans to do with a House vote this week condemning the administration’s decision not to defend Obamacare in court.
Trump’s efforts to eradicate Obamacare have also endangered some of the administration’s health initiatives, such as lowering prices for prescription drugs and combating opioid abuse and HIV.
In public and private, Republican leaders made clear that they didn’t want anything to do with the president’s most recent maneuver. They begged Trump to back down, and made their displeasure known to other administration officials, as well.
GOP lawmakers even took the position that if Trump wanted to lay out his own health care proposal, then they would be willing to look at it. But Senate Republicans — facing a tough electoral fight to maintain their majority in 2020 — have refused to sign on to a new administration drive before seeing the specifics, giving them room to disavow any Trump proposal if it hinders their own political outlook.
“I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing and what he can work out with the speaker,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a brief interview Thursday, adding: “I am focusing on stopping the ‘Democrats’ Medicare for none’ scheme.”
McConnell himself is up for re-election this cycle, as are vulnerable GOP incumbents including Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine, who said she doesn’t want the Justice Department to push to strike down Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act has been a thorn in the side of Republicans since it was enacted in 2010. After the GOP took back the House in the midterm elections that year, GOP lawmakers repeatedly passed legislation designed to repeal Obamacare.
Once Trump was elected president on a promise of different and better health care options, Republicans seemed on the path to finally scrapping the law, only to see a 2017 “skinny repeal” effort fail unexpectedly in the Senate. That attempt collapsed when Arizona Sen. John McCain — upset with the irregular way the legislation was being handled — stunned his colleagues by voting against it.
David Cohen contributed to this report.