Dems want ObamaCare subsidies funded in exchange for $15B to military

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An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agreeing to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks.

Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding.

In exchange, Democratic leaders want the GOP to agree to fund cost-sharing reduction subsidies. If the subsidies are halted, Democrats warn that millions of people will lose healthcare coverage as the ObamaCare exchanges collapse because of a funding shortfall. 

{mosads}Democrats argue that it’s in the interest of House Republicans to agree to appropriate money for the healthcare subsidies because otherwise the Trump administration will have the burden of making those payments under its executive authority.

If Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) refuses to agree to an estimated $10 billion in funding for cost-sharing subsidies, then Democrats will demand that the $15 billion in extra military funding be matched with an equal increase in supplemental funding for non-military programs — hewing to a standard they have long insisted upon.

A Senate Democratic aide, however, cautioned that the numbers are still in flux and nothing is agreed to until GOP and Democratic leaders in both chambers sign off on the final deal.

Spokespeople for Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment on the details of their talks with Democratic leaders.

McConnell told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the negotiations are continuing, without delving into specifics.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, and Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), declined to comment about specific offers, citing the ongoing talks.

Congressional Republicans have agreed to leave extra funding for Trump’s proposed border wall and deportation force out of the spending bill, the officials said.

Two sources familiar with the talks said Republicans have also agreed to keep the number of beds at deportation centers at the same level as authorized under President Obama.

Capping the number of beds would limit how many undocumented immigrants the administration can process for deportation.

Agreeing to funding cost-sharing subsidies in the government funding package that must pass by Friday to avoid a government shutdown would let House Republicans off the hook in some sense.

The House GOP sued the Obama administration in 2014, arguing cost-sharing payments authorized by the executive branch were illegal because the Constitution empowers Congress, not the president, to spend money.

But now that Trump controls the White House and Republicans command both chambers of Congress, simply stopping the payment is not viewed as a politically viable option because it would cause the health exchanges to collapse, putting millions of people at risk of losing coverage.

If Ryan agrees to fund the subsidies in the spending deal, critics on the right will howl in protest. But the alternative of forcing the executive branch to continue authorizing the payments, shifting the blame onto Trump, or blowing up the exchanges, aren’t attractive paths, either. 

– Updated at 4:08 p.m.

Tags Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Rodney Frelinghuysen

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