White House giving Congress healthcare principles, says Mulvaney

Trump’s acting chief of staff says this is the basis for potential legislation to replace Obamacare

By BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff said the Trump administration plans to send a short summary of its healthcare “principles” to Congress as the basis for potential legislation to replace Obamacare, just as it did for Republicans’ tax-cut bill in 2017.

“We are doing the same thing on this that we did with taxes,” Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“We sent principles to the Hill, I think it was one or two pages, and from that, following the proper legislative process, we got a tremendous tax bill.”

Trump’s surprise escalation of a legal attack on the Affordable Care Act recently dropped a political grenade in the laps of congressional Republicans, who would be forced to devise a viable alternative if the courts invalidate the 2010 healthcare law.

Republicans are still smarting over their failed effort to repeal Obamacare in 2017, and it’s surprising Trump would want to take on the fight again, Brendan Buck, an aide to former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, said on Bloomberg Television last Friday.

It’s hard to get the Republicans to agree on a healthcare plan, and the chances of passing anything are “slim to none” with Democrats now controlling the House, he said. “This was a real head-scratcher,” Buck said.

Mulvaney said in a separate appearance on ABC’s “This Week” that everyone agrees pre-existing medical conditions need to be protected, and the debate is about how to do it.

While Republicans would like to work with Democrats on fixing Obamacare, Democrats won’t act unless the law is declared unconstitutional, he said.

“We look forward to working with Democrats,” Mulvaney said. “If not, we’ll try and fix it by ourselves.” On CNN, Mulvaney also echoed Trump in blaming Republican Senator John McCain for the failure to overturn Obamacare in 2017: “We came up with a bunch of ideas out of the White House; yes, they didn’t pass, primarily because McCain went back on his word to vote for it in the middle of the night.” McCain died in August at 81.

Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to Trump, defended the absence of a clear White House plan on healthcare during an interview on “Fox News Sunday”.

Trump has only been president for two years, she said, adding: “Give us a chance” and “we are working on a plan at the White House.”

“The Republican plan is manifold,” Conway said without offering specifics.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who’s seeking re-election in 2020, said he plans to run on the issue of healthcare and wants to send money back to states to develop their own plans.

“Cover sick people, but let my state come up with a plan that fits South Carolina and get out from this Obamacare umbrella in Washington that is crushing us,” Graham said.

First-term representative Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey Democrat and dentist, said on Fox that Graham’s block grant plan is an “intriguing” idea, but questioned whether it would provide quality care for every state.

He said he also opposes a proposal from Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and 2020 Democratic candidate, to provide universal coverage through Medicare because of the cost.

“I want to see their plan,” Van Drew, said of Trump and Republicans. “I want to see a substantive plan that is going to supply healthcare to our constituents at a lower cost that is still going to be quality healthcare that is still going to allow you to visit your doctor and have that relationship.”

Asked on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether Republicans will have a plan to replace Obamacare this year, Republican Senator Dr John Barrasso of Wyoming, a medical doctor, didn’t answer directly.

But he said he’s been working on a plan and that Democrats are focused on an approach that threatens the US economy.

“There are things that are working, but we need bipartisan support at a time where the Democrats want to take over all of healthcare,” Barrasso said. — Bloomberg