Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday blasted President Trump’s vow to “let Obamacare fail,” saying it shows a “lack of leadership” and could be politically perilous for Republicans in next year’s congressional elections.
Speaking just hours after the dramatic collapse of GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Schumer said Democrats remain willing to work with Republicans to shore up insurance markets and enact broader fixes to the current health-care law. But that didn’t stop him from tweaking Trump.
“We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it,” the president said of Obamacare on Tuesday. “I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”
Trump “is running away from a difficult problem instead of trying to solve a difficult problem, which is what the American people hired him to do,” Schumer said in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s also not going to work. And that’s because he’s the president — he has a Republican House and Senate. If, God forbid, they sabotage health care, it’ll be on their watch and their plate. It’s small, it’s lack of leadership, but it’s also politically counterproductive.”
Despite the harsh rhetoric, Schumer said he remains optimistic that a bipartisan compromise on health care can be reached “if our Republican colleagues here in the Senate do what their instincts and heart tell them to do as opposed to what the president tells them to do.”
On Tuesday, Schumer said he told his Democratic colleagues during their weekly luncheon, “Sit down with Republicans. I welcome it.” But he insisted that any bipartisan deal cannot include tax cuts for wealthier Americans or cuts to the Medicaid program and must be conducted through “regular order,” which includes public committee hearings and the introduction of amendments.
“If we did it that way, some good things will come out of it,” Schumer said.
He cited three “easy” fixes to quickly stabilize the insurance markets.
First, Schumer believes there’s bipartisan support to ensure that the Trump administration will continue making the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments, which help lower the costs of co-pays and deductibles for lower-income Americans.
Second, he called on the Senate to take up a proposal from Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Thomas R. Carper (Del.) that would create a permanent reinsurance program for the individual health insurance market. The plan would help offset larger-than-expected insurance claims for companies participating in state and federal health insurance marketplaces.
Finally, Schumer cited a bill by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) that would enable people living in predominantly rural counties that lack health insurers to buy insurance from the health insurance exchange in D.C., where most lawmakers and their staff members buy coverage.
The three proposals — all from Democrats facing reelection in 2018 — “don’t get to the overall structure of health care, but they would stabilize it and prevent premiums from going up further and coverage from decreasing,” Schumer said.
But the Democrats’ demands — an open process that bars cuts to Medicaid and tax cuts for the wealthy — are nonstarters for many Republicans and indicate yet again how far apart the two parties remain in the quest among some senators for a bipartisan deal.
And then there’s this: Schumer said he hasn’t spoke directly to Trump in months and to Vice President Pence in several weeks. The lack of communication between the top leaders of both parties indicates yet again how bitterly divided Washington remains.
“He’s tweeted at me much more than he’s talked to me lately,” Schumer said of the president.
“Their attitude has been very simple: What is the president’s view of bipartisanship? They write a bill, kowtow to their hard-right Freedom Caucus base and we should go along with it without any input,” he added. “It’s such a lack of knowledge of how democracy works. The president would be a lot better off reaching out to us than reaching out to the Freedom Caucus. Because the Freedom Caucus — even though they’ve got a lot of power with all of those funding groups — they’re not where America is at.”
The Freedom Caucus is a collection of stridently conservative House lawmakers who usually vote as a bloc on high-stakes legislation. The group extracted several concessions before the House passed its version of a health-care bill earlier this year.
“I hope the lesson that both the administration and the Senate leadership get out of this is — kowtowing to this hard-right group is not going to succeed and that’ll be true with tax reform or infrastructure or anything else,” Schumer said.