"We haven't given up on trying to repeal and replace," Mick Mulvaney said
Many congressional Republicans, however, aren't on the same page
Although Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are saying they’re ready to move on from health care, the Trump administration isn’t giving up on repealing and replacing Obamacare, the White House budget director said Wednesday.
“We haven’t given up on trying to repeal and replace,” Mick Mulvaney, Office of Management and Budget director, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo in a lengthy exchange on “New Day.”
Mulvaney cheered on his fellow Republicans who have already begun pursuing tax reform and raising the debt ceiling, arguing that health care reform can continue simultaneously.
“We’re not sure how you can run for seven years saying, ‘If you elect us, we’ll repeal and replace Obamacare’ and then the voters give us a chance to do that and we don’t do it,” Mulvaney said. “We’ve got that working which we know everyone agrees with. The question is why can’t the Senate deliver on that.”
Many congressional Republicans, however, aren’t on the same page. Referring to health care, Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking GOP leader, told CNN earlier this week that “until someone shows us how to get that elusive 50th vote, I think it’s over.”
Instead of repealing and replacing Obamacare, a group of around 40 House Republicans and Democrats known as the Problem Solvers Caucus endorsed an outline of ideas aimed at making urgent fixes to it. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, also announced Tuesday that the Senate’s health committee would begin hearings in September on stabilizing the individual health insurance market.
But Mulvaney urged Republicans to stay focused on repeal and replace.
“I think our point is this: Let’s not move on from health care just because you failed by one vote. The President isn’t giving up on health care. Neither should the Senate,” Mulvaney said.
But while plenty of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say Congress needs to prevent a collapse of the market that could hurt millions of consumers and increase uncertainty, President Donald Trump had a different message after legislative efforts failed last week: “Let Obamacare implode.” In tweets over the weekend, the President also threatened to discontinue paying insurance companies the cost-sharing subsidies, which help lower out-of-pocket expenses for low-income policyholders.
“The President’s attitude is fairly simple. If people are suffering, and they are, and they will continue to suffer because we have not repealed or replaced Obamacare, why shouldn’t insurance companies similarly suffer? That’s his point,” Mulvaney added. “I don’t think that’s an unfair or unreasonable position for the President of the United States to take.”
Mulvaney didn’t give a clear answer on whether Trump will make good on his threat to stop paying Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies, saying that the President will look at the payments “on a month-by-month basis. That has not changed.”
He also reiterated White House critiques of the Congressional Budget Office. In mid-July, two top White House officials published an op-ed calling the CBO’s methodology for estimating the impact of Republican health care legislation “fundamentally flawed.” Mulvaney agreed, arguing that the CBO’s score is based on a false premise.
“Come back to what they say: ‘X’ number of people will not receive coverage. They’re comparing that to an ideal Obamacare that works. Obamacare doesn’t work,” Mulvaney said.
The budget director expressed overall satisfaction with the current economic growth rate, which accelerated to an annual rate of 2.6% from April through June. To maintain this acceleration, Mulvaney said the White House is willing to incur short-term losses.
“The benefit to the country in five, 10, 15 years of having that growth again as we’ve had for more than two centuries is huge, and we’re willing to incur short-term deficits,” Mulvaney said.