Stymied in bid to scrap Obamacare, Trump to decide this week whether to block subsidies

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on July 26, 2017.

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on July 26, 2017.

(Alex Brandon / AP)
Los Angeles Times

A pair of prominent lawmakers urged President Trump on Sunday not to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in the wake of failed Republican efforts to scrap his predecessor’s signature legislative achievement.

But Trump urged GOP senators to try again to push through some version of repealing and replacing the law, even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week it was time to move on to other matters.

Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway said the president would decide in coming days whether to block subsidies that are a crucial component of the existing healthcare law.


“He’s going to make that decision this week, and that’s a decision that only he can make,” Conway said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Two of the lawmakers who blocked the Senate GOP repeal plan last week, however, criticized the administration’s continued efforts to overturn the law.

Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who steadfastly rejected a series of GOP healthcare measures last week, blamed the Trump administration for encouraging instability in the insurance markets by continuing the uncertainty over whether the subsidies – cost-sharing payments that reduce out-of-pocket healthcare costs for poorer Americans – would continue.

“I’m troubled by the uncertainty that has been created by the administration,” Collins said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” She contested Trump’s characterization of the payments as an “insurance company bailout.”

“That’s not what it is,” she said, calling the reduction payments “vital assistance” to low-income Americans.

And Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said further action on healthcare should be done in a bipartisan manner and not rushed.

“You cannot do major entitlement reform singlehandedly, and you wouldn’t do major legislative initiatives singlehandedly,” she told reporters in Alaska.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) echoed Collins’ criticism of Trump’s threat to stop making the cost-sharing payments.

“You know, I really think it’s incomprehensible that we have a president of the United States who wants to sabotage healthcare in America, make life more difficult for millions of people who are struggling now to get the health insurance they need and to pay for that health insurance,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Prior to heading out for a day at his Virginia golf property, Trump tweeted that Republican senators should press ahead with efforts to scrap Obamacare -- a day after he tauntingly exhorted them not to be “quitters” in the quest for a legislative victory for him.

The White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said it was official Trump administration policy that the Senate should keep working to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, eschewing an August recess if necessary.

Senators, he said, “need to stay, they need to work -- they need to pass something.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, while acknowledging a responsibility to “follow the law” -- Obamacare -- also signaled that Trump was not accepting defeat in efforts to get rid of the measure.

“Our goal…as well as the president’s goal, is to put in place a law, a system, that actually works for patients,” he said on “Meet the Press,” adding, “You can’t do that under the current structure.”