Dem accuses Trump of ‘political blackmail’

Dem accuses Trump of ‘political blackmail’
© Greg Nash

The head of the House Democratic Caucus is accusing President Trump of “political blackmail” for threatening to withhold ObamaCare funds that lower health costs for poor Americans. 

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said the recent suggestion that Trump may halt billions of dollars in insurance subsidies to force Democrats to negotiate a healthcare overhaul “is a blatant attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act and manufacture a crisis.”

“Rather than improving our country's healthcare system, President Trump is bent on destroying it,” Crowley said Thursday. “His most recent threat — to raise premiums for millions of Americans by withholding the law's Cost Sharing Reduction payments — amounts to nothing more than political blackmail.

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“This, he added, “is not leadership.”

Trump and House GOP leaders failed stunningly last month to pass their ObamaCare repeal proposal in the face of opposition from both conservative and centrist Republicans. In a bid to revive the effort, Trump this week floated the idea of acting unilaterally to cancel ObamaCare’s cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which compensate insurance companies that prune deductibles for low-income patients. The program is expected to reimburse insurers to the tune of $7 billion this year.

Eliminating the reimbursements could compel insurers to flee ObamaCare altogether, upending the law’s marketplaces and leaving millions of low-income Americans without coverage. 

Trump, who has long argued that ObamaCare will collapse on its own, suggested the resulting turmoil would convince Democrats to reconsider their opposition to the Republicans’ healthcare plans.

“I don't want people to get hurt,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. “What I think should happen — and will happen — is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”

The comments came in the midst of a long congressional recess that’s found a number of GOP lawmakers facing heavy heat at home over their plans to dismantle former President Obama's signature healthcare law.

Acknowledging the potential blowback, Trump made no commitments about the fate of CSR subsidies, conceding that his proposition may backfire if ObamaCare founders and voters blame the Republicans.

“That's part of the reason that I may go the other way,” he said. “The longer I'm behind this desk and you have ObamaCare, the more I would own it." 

The Democrats, already poised to hold the Republicans accountable for any new failures in the healthcare sector, seem intent on popping Trump’s trial balloon before it gets off the ground. They’re accusing the president of risking American lives “to ‘win’ some reality show,” in the words of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). 

“The fact that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE is willing to use American lives as some sort of bargaining chip to force Democratic members of Congress to the table — a table that even Republicans are abandoning — is disgraceful,” Nadler said Thursday.