- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2019

President Trump says the GOP is the party of great health care — but apparently it will have to wait until after the 2020 elections.

Mr. Trump appeared to wave the white flag overnight Monday, signaling that he no longer will push congressional Republicans to have a replacement for Obamacare ready to go soon.

Instead, he will take the issue to voters, asking them to give him another term and a Republican-controlled Congress.

“If we get back the House, and on the assumption we keep the Senate and we keep the presidency — which I hope are two good assumptions — we’re going to have phenomenal health care,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday at the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the president made the about-face after he told Mr. Trump in a phone call that it made little sense to go beyond bipartisan efforts to reduce drug prices and revisit the Obamacare wars in divided government.



Mr. McConnell said Mr. Trump intends to craft his own plan, which he will “take to the American people during the 2020 campaign.”

Bring it on, say Democrats, who argue that the issue has slipped from Mr. Trump and that his attempts to kill Obamacare in the courts without a clear backup plan will “hold Americans hostage through 2020.”

“When President Trump insists he has a magic plan that we can see, if only the American people reelect him, we know that’s just not true,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “Don’t let President Trump fool you, America. Republicans are not the party of health care; they’re the party that wants to end your health care.”

Both parties say Obamacare has failed to fulfill its lofty promises of universal coverage, though they are taking divergent paths in the run-up to November 2020, betting the electorate will reward their side.

Republicans insist the law was flawed from the start, has left consumers reeling from price shock and cannot be repaired.

But they have struggled for years to settle on a replacement.

Democrats, meanwhile, have myriad plans that would expand the government’s options, such as letting Americans of all ages buy into Medicare and ushering in a government-run system that covers everyone.

Mr. Trump and his Republican allies say doubling down on government solutions amounts to socialism, though polls suggest his attacks on the existing law are backfiring.

When Obamacare took root in 2014, polls showed its approval underwater, with more than half of Americans disliking the law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But after Mr. Trump took office and as he led congressional Republicans on a failed push to repeal the law, its popularity soared. Kaiser’s tracking polls said views roughly flipped, with approval ratings outpacing disapproval since early 2017.

Mr. Trump now says he will regain the upper hand in the campaign and reverse his calls from last week for Republicans to write a bill this session.

His calls for Republican senators to devise a “spectacular” plan caught party leaders flat-footed.

Mr. Trump scaled back his ambitions in a series of tweets late Monday, saying the issue will be settled “right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House.”

“It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America,” he tweeted.

He also appeared to be heeding Republican leaders’ advice to keep his focus on criticizing Democrats’ plans to expand the government role in health care.

“It’s a disaster what they’re planning, and everyone knows it,” he told White House reporters.

He said people who have private insurance would be forced into a government-run system.

Mr. Trump’s new strategy is taking pressure off congressional Republicans, though it’s not without risks.

Administration attorneys told an appeals court last week that they will not defend any part of Obamacare after a lower court in Texas said Congress’ decision to gut the “individual mandate” penalty should topple the rest of the law, including its vast expansion of Medicaid and protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Given Mr. Trump’s new timeline, it’s not clear how his party would deal with the fallout if the ruling is upheld before the election.

Mr. McConnell said he is not worried.

“It’s in the court system, nobody’s lost a policy over it,” he said. “There’s no point in pushing the panic button. The court system takes a long time to resolve these issues.”

Democrats, who used the issue against Republicans with great success in last year’s campaigns, are eager to take the fight back to voters.

The House is scheduled to vote on a resolution Wednesday condemning the administration for its refusal to defend Obamacare in the appeals court.

In the Senate, all 47 members in the Democratic caucus introduced a parallel resolution.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat and a chief sponsor of the resolution, warned Republicans that they will face a stark choice in the coming months.

“You can sit idly by while the president strips your constituents of their health care,” she said, “or you can work with us to protect Americans’ care and improve the system.”

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