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Donald Trump: Negotiating SuperGenius

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Oh Donald, don’t intimidate Democrats with your brilliant dealmaking strategies!

President Trump suggested to the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that he would withhold from insurers Obamacare subsidy payments that are the target of a House GOP lawsuit in order to force Democrats into negotiations over repealing the Affordable Care Act, a move that could bring chaos to the individual health insurance market.

In the same interview Trump said he believed Democrats still “own” the Affordable Care Act, but acknowledged that the longer he was in office the more likely it was he would be blamed for problems with the law.

“That’s part of the reason that I may go the other way” on the insurance subsidies, Trump told the Journal. “The longer I’m behind this desk and you have Obamacare, the more I would own it.”

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans are under increasing pressure to continue the subsidies, known as cost sharing reduction payments, at least through 2018 as insurers prepare to submit their plans for next year. The Department of Health and Human Services, as well as GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, have signaled that the payments will continue through the next stage of the legal case, which has been delayed until May.

Trump said he believed that withholding the payments for insurers would bring Democrats to the table on negotiations.

“I don’t want people to get hurt,” Mr. Trump said. “What I think should happen—and will happen—is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”

Republican have been trying to pass Obamacare repeal through the complicated reconciliation process, which puts strict procedural rules on the legislation but avoids a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. The process allows Republicans to pass repeal without Democratic help but greatly constrains what they put in their ACA replacement.

“[Senate Minority Leader] Schumer should be calling me up and begging me to help him save Obamacare,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “He should be calling me and begging me to help him save Obamacare, along with [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi.”

Uh huh. Sure thing dude. I’m sure you would love Schumer and Pelosi to beg you. But they are going to tell you that you own it, no matter what happens. Trump and his band of deplorables could indeed do much to destroy the ACA and they may well do so. But if Democrats have even the slightest scrap of political sense (admittedly, this is sometimes an open question), they will let Trump take the political consequences of the whole thing rather than sit down with him and let him dictate the terms of surrender.

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