Trump stops short of ObamaCare deal endorsement

Trump stops short of ObamaCare deal endorsement
© Camille Fine

President Trump expressed appreciation for work on a bipartisan ObamaCare deal in a meeting with GOP senators on Tuesday but did not endorse the bill, multiple lawmakers said.

"He just encouraged us to continue to work on it. He made it clear that he appreciated what Sen. [Lamar] Alexander [R-Tenn.] was doing," Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senators skeptical of DACA deal in funding bill Overnight Cybersecurity: Fallout from Tillerson's ouster at State | Trump blocks Broadcom deal | Military officials push for aggressive cyber stance Top officials: U.S. must shift to more aggressive cyber approach MORE (R-S.D.) said.

But Trump did not endorse the bill. "He just said continue to work on it," Rounds said.

A Senate GOP aide said Trump turned to Alexander in the lunch and said: “Thanks for your great work on health care. It’s good, it’s good."


The bipartisan plan was crafted by Alexander and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Regulation: FTC to probe Facebook over user data | FDA takes step to regulating flavors in tobacco products | Congress may include background check measure in funding bill Overnight Health Care: House leaves out ObamaCare fix from funding bill | Trump appointees pushed to end teen pregnancy program | Key Dem raises concerns over potential CDC pick Top Senate Dem raises concerns over potential CDC pick MORE (D-Wash.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Health Committee.

Senate Republicans have been looking to Trump for guidance on the bill, but the president has given mixed signals. 

The lunch on Tuesday does not appear to have cleared up confusion over whether Trump supports the measure. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee Spending bill delay raises risk of partial government shutdown support GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone MORE (R-Ky.) said on Sunday that he would bring the bill up for a vote if Trump supported it.

The path forward was further complicated on Tuesday when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchNew kid on the tech block Senate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Week ahead: Lawmakers scramble to avoid another shutdown MORE (R-Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRepublicans open to targeted China tariffs despite steel flap GOP pushes for 'phase two' of tax cuts Lighthizer, Ross set to talk trade on Capitol Hill next week MORE (R-Texas) put forward their own, more conservative, rival bill. 

The Alexander-Murray bill aims to stabilize ObamaCare markets by funding payments to insurers for two years, in exchange for more flexibility for states to change ObamaCare rules. 

The Hatch-Brady bill would fund the payments but also repeal ObamaCare's individual insurance mandate for five years, a nonstarter for Democrats.   

This story was updated at 3:22 p.m.