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 introduce resolution endorsing ICE Mulvaney aims to cement CFPB legacy by ensuring successor's confirmation GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border 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 MurrayDems launch pressure campaign over migrant families Jane Fonda: Kavanaugh confirmation would be a 'catastrophe' Dems rip Trump DOJ nominee who represented Russian bank 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 McConnellDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick 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 HatchGOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Yale Law School students, alumni denounce Trump Supreme Court pick MORE (R-Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump angers GOP, businesses with new tariffs | Liberals see Kavanaugh as mortal threat to consumer bureau | Lawmakers pitch family leave plans Trump tariffs prompt rising fear, anger from GOP, business Top House Republican calls for Trump to meet with Chinese president over trade war 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.