The most attention-generating aspect of Donald Trump’s brief comments to the media today will be his “The Buck Stops Over There” exercise in blame-shifting. (“We’re not getting the job done. And I’m not going to blame myself. I’ll be honest. They are not getting the job done.”)
But possibly the most significant aspect may be his follow-up remarks about Obamacare. For all the tough-guy mobster lingo he employs, Trump is signaling an almost total retreat.
Trump has undertaken a campaign of administrative sabotage against the health-care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. There are bipartisan negotiations in both chambers of Congress to counteract that sabotage, by locking in the cost-sharing reduction payments, or CSRs, that Trump has unilaterally stopped making. The main question has been whether Trump would sign such a bill. He seems to indicate today that he would.
“We’re working on some kind of short-term fix,” says Trump of the negotiations he had previously scorned. Indeed, Trump absurdly insists that the negotiations are only happening because he cut off the payments. (“Republicans are meeting with Democrats because of what I did with the CSRs,” an interpretation no reporter who has covered the negotiations would endorse.)
It might be easy to miss the importance of this reversal, since Trump covered it with aggressive language declaring the hated law deceased. (“Obamacare’s dead, it’s gone, there is no such thing as Obamacare.”) This may simply be the excuse Trump needs to support a plan to patch up the exchanges. Liberals have been saying all along that Trump should simply sign some small changes to the law, say he “repealed” Obamacare and is “replacing” it with the new, altered version, and declare victory. Trump is finally acting as though he intends to do just that. Obamacare’s dead, but the negotiating prowess of Donald J. Trump has allowed for bipartisan negotiations to save health care for everybody!