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Donald Trump

Frustrated in defeat, Trump threatens health care of voters and lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 July, 2017, 6:21pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 July, 2017, 9:39pm

Annoyed by the failure of the Obamacare repeal in the Senate, US President Donald Trump has threatened to end federal subsidies for health care insurance – for Congress as well as the rest of the country.

“If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!” Trump tweeted on Saturday, fuming about Congress’ failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he described as “imploding”.

Such a move could cause havoc and much higher premiums in insurance markets, since many low- and moderate-income Americans depend on those subsidies to help cover the cost of their policies. Through a series of administrative manoeuvres by Congress and the Obama administration, members and their staff also benefit from the subsidies.

Targeting congressional health care might score Trump some populist points with his base, but it would likely come at a cost of poisoning his relationship with Congress. Making the threat on Saturday has highlighted just how far things have eroded between Trump and top Republican lawmakers. The strongly-worded tweet also came a day after Trump pushed out former chief of staff Reince Priebus, an establishment Republican who was the trusted White House liaison of the party’s congressional leadership.

Trump’s long-standing threat to let the health insurance plans fail would come with its own political price. The federal government sends about US$600 million a month to insurance companies to help cover the cost, and Trump is threatening to cut that off to allow Obamacare markets to collapse.

His goal is to pressure Congress to send him a repeal bill, but so far the strategy has failed. The confidence Trump has expressed that if he followed through with the threat the fallout would land not on him but on Democrats, because they created Obamacare, is not widely shared in Washington.