Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House budget office, clarified a vague threat issued by President Donald Trump on Twitter on Saturday, saying 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.
In one of the 13 tweets he rattled off on Saturday, Trump wrote: “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”
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, the signature legislative achievement of the Obama presidency. But the lawmakers and their staff members generally make too much to qualify for subsidies under the law meant for low-income Americans. So President Barack 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.
“I talked to the president at length about that exact issue yesterday,” Mulvaney said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He continued, “What he’s saying 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 Trump administration’s shot across the bow was just one in a series after the defeat last week of the latest GOP health-care legislation. Trump branded Senate Republicans as “total quitters” unless they took up another health-care vote and claimed that Senate Democrats are “laughing at” Republicans for maintaining the chamber’s filibuster rule.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the three Republicans who voted against the stripped-down repeal bill on Friday, said on CNN that Trump’s threat would not sway her.
“The president appears to be threatening to cut off funding for the health-care plans that members of Congress receive,” host Jake Tapper said in an interview with Collins on Sunday. “Would that kind of pressure change your vote?”
“No,” she said.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Dino Grandoni