White House: Bipartisan deal must target ObamaCare mandates, taxes

A top White House aide says that President Trump needs more concessions in order to support a bipartisan ObamaCare bill, including repealing ObamaCare mandates and taxes. 

White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short said on CNN Thursday evening that Trump "appreciates" the efforts of Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to forge a bipartisan deal, but "we need a lot more than what's in the bill right now."


Trump himself, though, has sent conflicting messages on whether he supports the bipartisan bill. On Tuesday he seemed to endorse it, then later blasted it as "bailing out" insurance companies, before saying on Thursday that he is "open to it."


Short, though, argues that the White House needs to push the bill in a conservative direction in order to support it, which would be sure to upset the delicate balance struck with Democrats. 


Short said the bill would have to have relief from ObamaCare's mandates for people to have coverage and for employers to provide it and would have to repeal unspecified taxes in ObamaCare. 


"If we really want to reduce prices, then we need to begin repealing the mandates and repealing the taxes and then we could have a deal," Short said. 


A White House official on Wednesday night made similar demands, also including changes like those in Trump's executive order to allow cheaper, short-term insurance plans, though that official did not mention taxes. 


Democrats would resist any effort to weaken ObamaCare's individual mandate, a central component of the law. There are some ObamaCare taxes that Democrats are open to repealing, though, such as the medical device tax or tax on high-end "Cadillac" insurance plans. 


Democrats say the negotiation is over and Republican leaders should bring up the Alexander-Murray bill for a vote. 


Many observers, though, think the measure's best chance is as part of a larger government funding deal in December. 


The deal would currently fund two years of ObamaCare payments to reimburse insurers for providing discounts to low-income people, which conservatives call a "bailout" for insurers. The deal would also broaden waivers allowing states to change ObamaCare rules.  


Short dismissed the changes to what are known as 1332 waivers, arguing the administration already has plenty of leeway to approve them. 


"Tell me where the compromise is where you're continuing to extend the bailouts for something that we already have in 1332 waivers," Short said.