The Trump administration has agreed to continue paying Obamacare insurer subsidies, thus mitigating fears that a dispute over the issue with Democrats might result in a government shutdown.
The move is a big shift from President Donald Trump’s initial stance on the matter where he threatened to withhold the subsidies, better known as cost-sharing reductions, as a means to force Democrats to negotiate on GOP health care reforms. Republicans balked at Democrats’ demand that the proposed government spending bill include explicit language guaranteeing the continuation of subsidy payments, but Trump’s unilateral offer has since brought the two groups closer to common ground.
Political news site The Hill also reported that the White House has seemingly eased its demands for money to build Trump’s “Great Wall” along the U.S./Mexico border.
“Our major concerns in these negotiations have been about funding for the wall and uncertainty about the CSR payments crucial to the stability of the marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “We’ve now made progress on both of these fronts.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed, lauding the much-needed progress as “good news for the American people” while both parties continue their negotiations.
At minimum, Trump’s offer means that his administration will continue paying the subsidies until the end of May when they have to give a status update to the courts, according to ABC News. Some Democrats remain wary of the president’s pledge, however, considering his track record of saying one thing, then doing another.
“He has flip-flopped on almost every single statement, every single sentence, every single tweet,” Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) said Wednesday. “Personally, I don’t trust anything he says. I would like to see it in writing; I’d love to see it done through legislation.”
Others Democrats like Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland also have warned that adding new language to the spending bill, as Pelosi has urged, would both weaken the Democrats’ hand and likely create a situation where they would be forced to rehash the CSR funding issue every few years.
“Why would we negotiate something that the president, by duty, should be doing on his own?” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), asked during a private House Democratic Caucus meeting on Wednesday, April 26. “We shouldn’t be giving away any points of leverage, and I think we’re actually positioning ourselves in a weak spot when it comes to negotiations by doing that.”
Though the Trump administration has gone ahead and agreed to keep making the CSR payments, a White House official told The Hill they haven’t made a final decision regarding future commitments.
House and Senate leaders have until midnight Friday, April 28, to reach an agreement on a spending bill that would fully fund government departments and agencies until the end of the current fiscal year this September. If more time is needed, lawmakers can request a one or two-week extension to hammer out a more solid deal.