The Trump administration is facing searing criticism over a trio of significant decisions this week, all of which are eminently defensible, if not entirely correct. (1) On Obamacare's cost sharing subsidies, an issue we touched on a number of weeks ago, the president has decided to cease making payments of dollars that were never appropriated by Congress -- a task for which they are solely responsible under the constitution. When the legislative branch failed to approve bailout-style "cost sharing" dollars to be paid to insurers to mitigate their financial losses associated with covering consumers with costly pre-existing conditions (which weren't sufficiently offset by an influx of young, healthy people willing to overpay for coverage), President Obama started paying out those funds unilaterally. The House of Representatives, then led by Speaker John Boehner, sued in federal court -- and won. Obama's payouts were illegal, the court ruled, agreeing with House Republicans' legal argument. With the Trump administration announcement that they are ceasing those payments, all three branches of the federal government have now affirmed that the previous White House's actions were unlawful. This is really all you need to know:
It is undeniable that this move will severely disrupt the individual healthcare market in America, and that providers will move en masse toward even larger premium increases to compensate for the additional red ink they're now highly likely to incur. This is a profoundly negative policy outcome that will exacerbate already-seriousfinancial stresses and dysfunction caused by Obamacare's failing structure. These fundamental flaws and spiraling dynamics predate Donald Trump, and cannot be accurately pinned on Republican "saboteurs." If left unaddressed, the cessation of CSR's will make things worse. Meanwhile, Republicans have failed to 'repeal and replace' the law in its entirety, as they promised to do for seven years. The president's executive order on healthcare regulations unveiled this week (about which I have some constitutional doubts) may tinker around the edges to help some peoplecurrently priced out of Obamacare, but it's hardly a sweeping solution. With the unconstitutionally-allocated CSR's getting the axe, the GOP-held Congress now faces a dilemma: Properly appropriate those funds, which were authorized in Obamacare (which Obamacare opponents will decry as propping up a harmful law that's hurting people), or let costs spike much higher than they already have (which Obamacare proponents will cast as undermining the law and hurting people).
Thanks to their repeal face-plants, Congressional Republicans' least bad remaining option appears to be shepherding through a "fix" for the broken law that restores these stabilizing pay-offs to insurers in exchange for some modest reforms. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have been working on the contours of such a bill for some time now. Just as with DACA, Congress must act to prevent unjust and harmful outcomes from taking effect after illegal Obama power-grabs disappear. But also just as with DACA, this is the job of Congress, not the executive branch. As you hear table-pounding over the adverse effects of Trump's move here, including anger over the people it will hurt, and how unpopular it is (ridiculous poll questions aside), re-read the tweets above. Obama's policy was against the law. We are a nation of laws. Thus, the Trump administration is absolutely right to respect the rule of law. Republicans and Democrats are now -- rightly -- in charge of cleaning up the mess that Democrats made with their shoddy law, which they built and sold on lies. They should do their job.
(2) Speaking of lies, next up is the Iran deal. The Trump administration has elected not to pull out of Obama's unilateral Iran nuclear deal, which was opposed by substantial bipartisan majorities in Congress. Rather than exiting the agreement entirely, the White House declined to certify that it's in the United States' interests and rolled out a new policy posture toward Iran on a number of fronts:
Source: Town Hall