In Capitol Hill Visit, Trump Gives No Direction On Health Care Stalemate

President Donald Trump speaks to the winners from the National Minority Enterprise Development Week Awards Program, in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP
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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

Senators left a Tuesday lunch meeting with President Donald Trump just as confused  about his position on stabilizing the individual health insurance market as when they went in.

“We really didn’t get into details on that,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told reporters, noting that the meeting was cordial and “nobody called anyone an ignorant slut.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) confirmed that Trump “did not give any indication of his position.”

The stabilization bill, endorsed by a dozen Republicans and every Senate Democrat, would pass by a filibuster-proof supermajority if and when it comes to the floor. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he will not allow a vote until President Trump signs off on the legislation.

Those who had hoped for some clarity from Trump’s Tuesday visit to Capitol Hill were disappointed.

“He just encouraged us to keep working on it, and made it clear he appreciated what Senator Alexander did,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) told reporters. “He just said we’ve got to get it done.”

But the Senate cannot “get it done” until they learn what Trump would be willing to sign into law. Since the bipartisan bill was unveiled last week, the President has given a host of mixed messages, sometime praising the legislation and taking credit for it, and other times blasting it as a “bailout” for insurance companies. Senators have openly complained that Trump has not been clear about his intentions, leaving them at an impasse and further destabilizing the health insurance market.

President Trump similarly did not say Tuesday whether he favors an alternative, more conservative bill unveiled this week that would fund the subsidies to insurers but would undo Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates.

“That wasn’t really discussed,” White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short told reporters.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the co-author of the bill, acknowledged that the lack of Trump’s blessing is the one thing holding things up. “The next step in the legislative process would be for the White House to say what it thinks about it,” he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

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