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Trump urges GOP not to give up on health bill

President Trump spoke last week in the Rose Garden.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

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 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 other statements insisting the seven-year GOP quest to repeal 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, a Kentucky Republican, 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, 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 Affordable Care Act 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.

Mulvaney said the president wants members of Congress to bear more of the burden for their heavily subsidized health insurance if they fail to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act required members of Congress, along with their staff, to buy health care insurance through the online markets created under the law. But the lawmakers and their staff members generally make too much to qualify for subsidies under the law meant for low-income Americans. So Obama decided to let individual congressional offices be counted as small businesses, thereby allowing members and their staff to qualify for the subsidies.


On Saturday, Trump threatened to undo that Obama administration decision, effectively yanking away the federal government’s contribution to the insurance plans of members of Congress and their staff. Currently, their employer (i.e., taxpayers) pays 72 percent of their premiums.

‘‘What he’s saying,’’ Mulvaney said, “is, look, if Obamacare is hurting people, and it is, then why shouldn’t it hurt insurance companies and, more importantly perhaps for this discussion, members of Congress?’’

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.

Senator 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.

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.’’


Material from the Washington Post was used in this report.