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 RoundsTrump should fill CFPB vacancy with Export-Import chief Tax bill could fuel push for Medicare, Social Security cuts Senate passes tax overhaul, securing major GOP victory 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."

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The bipartisan plan was crafted by Alexander and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats turn on Al Franken VA slashes program that helps homeless veterans obtain housing: report The Hill's 12:30 Report 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 strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters 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 HatchMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Utah governor calls Bannon a 'bigot' after attacks on Romney MORE (R-Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRyan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference Overnight Finance: GOP delays work on funding bill amid conservative demands | Senate panel approves Fed nominee Powell | Dodd-Frank rollback advances | WH disputes report Mueller subpoenaed Trump bank records 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.