- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Senate Democrats have taken three swings at undermining President Trump’s agenda this month — on climate, on tax reform, and on health care — and have missed each time.

First, a bipartisan majority rejected Democrats’ push to reinstate Obama-era climate controls. Then last week, Democrats forced a vote to reverse part of the 2017 tax reform legislation that capped deductions for state and local taxes, which failed. Finally, on Wednesday, the Senate rejected a resolution pushed by Democrats that sought to undo the Trump administration’s guidance on waivers that give states the opportunity to circumvent certain Obamacare guidelines.

The Democrats’ effort to strip the Trump administration’s interpretation of “1332 waivers” failed by a 43-52 vote. The waivers allow states to experiment with their own insurance models in addition to Obamacare, and the Trump administration has adopted the view that the waivers allow states to circumvent the Affordable Care Act.

The waivers were created by the Democratic authors of the Affordable Care Act, but Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has labeled the Trump administration’s guidance on them an effort to “sabotage the health care of millions of Americans with preexisting conditions.”

“It is preposterous that the Trump administration claims to care about preserving preexisting condition protections for millions of Americans while simultaneously peddling shoddy, substandard junk plans that undermine and weaken those very protections,” the New York Democrat said in a statement this week.

Sen. Lamar Alexander responded to Democrats’ suggestions that Republicans were taking advantage of Americans by labeling the Democratic maneuver an early Halloween trick.

“Why would you take away a flexibility option that you wrote to give your own voters lower health care rates?” the Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee asked his colleagues on the Senate floor Wednesday. “I know it’s Halloween, but don’t be tricked, don’t believe this scary fairy tale. Protections for preexisting conditions when you buy health insurance is the law, nothing in the 1332 waiver changes that.”

The Office of Management and Budget said in a policy statement this week it “strongly oppos[ed]” the Democrats’ resolution.

“The last administration’s guidance harmed Americans by requiring states to meet very exacting and burdensome requirements in order to receive a waiver from the Obamacare requirements,” the OMB said in a policy statement. “By contrast, the Trump administration’s guidance empowers states with flexibility to work around some of Obamacare’s most glaring failures and to give Americans more options to get health coverage that better meets their needs.”

OMB pointed out that 13 states have used the Trump administration’s guidance. Of those states, the statewide average individual market premiums dropped in a range from down 6% in Rhode Island to down 30% in Maryland, the Trump administration said.

Mr. Schumer’s Democratic colleagues signaled on Wednesday that although their resolution failed, the vote did serve a purpose — to showcase Republicans’ true plans for health care.

“President Trump supports overturning the law that provides protections for people with pre-existing conditions while he is expanding junk plans that don’t provide those protections. That is the Republican health care plan,” said. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat, in a statement. “While Senate Democrats are working to help make things better for the American people, Senate Republicans are helping the Trump administration make things worse.”

Sen. John Cornyn branded Democrats’ messaging about pre-existing conditions “not true” in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday.

“Our Democratic colleagues are simply waging a war against a problem that does not exist, but I guess if you say it often enough and loudly enough, some people somewhere may just believe that coverage of pre-existing conditions is somehow a partisan issue. It’s not,” the Texas Republican said. “They’re grasping at straws as their party, unfortunately, has gone further and further to the left on health care.”

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