Budget Chief Raises Possibility Of Trump Agreeing To Obamacare Subsidy Deal

Is the president about to flip-flop again?
Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON ― Office of Management and Budget chief Mick Mulvaney suggested on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump could back a bipartisan deal on making certain reimbursement payments to insurers if he also got other, smaller changes to the health care system.

Asked if the deal between the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ― Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) ― would hurt economic growth projections, Mulvaney was emphatic that it would not.

Summoning the voice of Trump, Mulvaney said the president would accept making those payments if he got something in return. “Give us more ability” to ease regulations on insurance offered through associations, Mulvaney said. “Give us more ability to sell [insurance] across state lines. Give us more ability to expand health savings accounts.”

While those changes weren’t part of the Alexander-Murray deal, Democrats may be able to support them if it meant Trump would sign off on the agreement. Mulvaney’s comments may also signal that the administration believes the president could have to support the accord in the end anyway, particularly if Democrats make passage of a year-end spending bill contingent on the Alexander-Murray deal.

Trump repeatedly flip-flopped on the agreement last week, going from opposing the so-called Cost Sharing Reductions, to saying he knew of the deal and supported it, to saying he couldn’t get behind the agreement ― all in the span of 24 hours.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Sunday he would put the bill on the floor if Trump got behind the legislation.

“I’m not certain yet, what the president is looking for here, but I’ll be happy to bring a bill to the floor if I know President Trump would sign it,” McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week said he opposed the agreement, but it’s uncertain he would stand up to Trump if the president signaled his support for such a bill.

The Alexander-Murray deal would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to accept more state applications for waivers of certain Affordable Care Act provisions in exchange for the government making the insurance reimbursement payments for two more years for plans that cover low-income people.

Trump earlier this month announced that he was ending the subsidies.

In response to McConnell’s comments, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement saying that Trump held the key to preventing insurance premiums from going up.

“Now that Leader McConnell has made it clear he will put the Murray-Alexander bill on the floor as soon as the president supports it, the president should say that he does,” Schumer said. “But even if the president doesn’t offer his support, I would respectfully urge Leader McConnell to put it on the floor where it would pass with a large number of votes and increase pressure on Speaker Ryan to put it on the floor in the House.”

Schumer added, “I doubt the president would veto it.”

This article has been updated with comments from McConnell and Schumer.