Politics

Trump Flip-Flops on Senate Health Care Deal

President opposes bipartisan deal he supported the day before

President Donald Trump expressed his doubts on a tentative, bipartisan deal reached by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, right, and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray that would change the 2010 health care law. (Tom Williams/Roll Call)

President Donald Trump reversed gears on a bipartisan Senate health care deal Wednesday, saying he would not sign the pact reached by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray less than 24 hours after he signaled support for it in a public appearance in the Rose Garden.

Trump “supports the process” of trying to find a short-term fix to the 2010 health care law, but he “doesn’t support the result,” a White House official said of the efforts by the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The opposition comes just after Trump tweeted Wednesday morning he could not “support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care.”

That came after Trump said in a speech to the Heritage Foundation Tuesday that he opposed continuing cost-sharing subsidy payments that help low-income people pay for health insurance on the exchange, the crux of the Alexander-Murray deal and something state insurance officials and insurance companies say is essential to the markets not collapsing. Trump last week said he would end the administration’s practice of making those payments. 

Watch: 7 Years of Republican Efforts to Repeal and Replace Obamacare

That move has not resonated with the public. Fifty-three percent of respondents to an Economist/YouGov survey conducted Oct. 15 and 16 said they disapproved of the executive move, compared to 31 percent who were in favor. Sixteen percent declined to give an opinion.

“While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray — and I do commend it — I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies,” Trump said. 

That speech came just a few hours after he said in the Rose Garden that administration officials have been involved in the Alexander-Murray talks and signaled he supported what he described as a one- or two-year package.

In that White House appearance, Trump called the Alexander-Murray move a “short-term deal” that is needed to “get us over this hump” until Republicans might find a way to send him a measure to partially or completely repeal the Obama-era law.

During a HELP Committee hearing that wrapped up just after Trump’s tweet Wednesday, Alexander said he and Murray, along with several co-sponsors, would present the plan on the Senate floor.

Murray ruled out major changes to the plan after Trump’s newfound position.

“This is our bipartisan agreement. We’ve agreed on it, and it’s a good compromise, both of us had to give and that’s what we have,” the Washington Democrat said.

Alexander said the president had encouraged senators to keep working toward a deal.

“The president called me this morning, which is the third time he’s called me about this. I appreciate his encouragement of the process,” the Tennessee Republican said. “He asked me to do it, to work with Sen. Murray on the project. He said he would review the legislation, which is what I would expect a president to do. So we will keep working on it.”

Alexander said Tuesday he briefed Senate Republicans on the temporary plan that would provide funding through 2019 for cost-sharing reduction subsidies that help lower-income consumers. It would also give states more flexibility to seek waivers to bypass the law under certain conditions.

Requirements for certain health benefits and banning insurers from charging more would stay in place, Alexander said.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s position remains that the Senate should focus on repeal and replace efforts, a spokesman said.

Joe Williams, Mary Ellen McIntire and Emily Wilkins contributed to this report.

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