President Trump is threatening to withhold key ObamaCare payments as a way to force Democrats to the negotiating table on healthcare, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal reported that Trump made the threat in an interview on Wednesday.
“I don’t want people to get hurt,” Trump said. “What I think should happen — and will happen — is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”
If Trump follows through on what the Journal is reporting, he could use the ensuing chaos in ObamaCare's insurance markets to try to back Democrats into making a deal on repealing the law.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (N.Y.) said in response to the comments that "President Trump is threatening to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him, to achieve a political goal of repeal that would take health care away from millions more."
"This cynical strategy will fail," Schumer continued. "Our position remains unchanged: drop repeal, stop undermining our health care system, and we will certainly sit down and talk about ways to improve the Affordable Care Act."
Trump did not definitively say whether he would seek to cancel the payments, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), or whether Congress should appropriate the money, according to the Journal.
In fact, Trump also acknowledged he might continue the payments so he would not be blamed for chaos in the system. He also cautioned: “That’s part of the reason that I may go the other way."
"The longer I’m behind this desk and you have ObamaCare, the more I would own it,” he said.
At issue are the CSRs, which reimburse insurers for giving discounted deductibles to low-income ObamaCare enrollees. House Republicans sued over the payments, arguing they were unconstitutional without a congressional appropriation.
That lawsuit is ongoing, but the Trump administration could drop its defense and cancel the payments. That would be likely to cause insurers to spike premiums or drop out of the ObamaCare market altogether.
The administration said last week only that it would continue the payments during the lawsuit.
Insurers are pushing hard for more certainty as they try to plan whether to participate in ObamaCare markets next year. They say they may have to hike premiums or drop out anyway due to the uncertainty.
Some top congressional Republicans have called for appropriating the money, which could override any decisions made by the Trump administration and keep the payments flowing.
Updated at 6:23 p.m.