A day after seemingly endorsing a legislative effort in Congress to formally approve money for insurance companies that would pay for health insurance subsidies for certain consumers, President Donald Trump indicated on Wednesday that while he backed the idea of bipartisan negotiations related to the Obama health law, he did not support a deal on "Cost Sharing Reduction" payments, which he moved to cut off last Thursday.
"If something can happen that's fine," Mr. Trump told reporters at a White House photo op about a plan worked out by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
"I won't do anything to enrich the insurance companies," the President said. "They've been enriched by Obamacare like nothing anyone has ever seen before," as he made clear that he wants to stop insurance subsidy payments that go to health insurers.
At the White House briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made clear to reporters that Mr. Trump "does not support" the plan as currently written.
The statements left lawmakers on Capitol Hill wondering whether Mr. Trump would help push the plan through the Congress, or if it would galvanize more conservative opponents, as in less than 24 hours, the President had gone from supportive, to mildly unimpressed, to seemingly opposed to the plan.
"He called the Murray-Alexander deal a very good solution," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. "Now this morning, he says he can't support it."
"He keeps zigging and zagging," Schumer complained in a frustrated, and almost exasperated tone on the floor of the Senate, as he urged the President to be consistent when it comes to legislation in Congress.
"Our only hope is, maybe tomorrow, he'll be for this again," Schumer added.
As the President pinballed back and forth on the Senate CSR payments deal, it wasn't clear what the Congress might do on the matter, as conservative groups urged GOP leaders not to accept the plan, saying it only tweaks the Obama health law, and not in a good way.
"This is a bailout for health insurance companies," the group Freedom Works said in a morning news release.
Health insurance experts were still debating the Senate plan, unsure of all of its impacts, especially since there was no final bill draft at this point - and no plan for any vote on it, either, as key Republican leaders indicated their opposition.
Democrats could still offer the plan as an amendment to another bill - maybe a hurricane relief supplemental spending bill; but there was no guarantee it would be approved by the Congress.
If that's the case - and the CSR payments are not made - it could result in Uncle Sam spending more money, as other subsidy payments would kick in, raising the cost of the Obama health law, but not necessarily endangering coverage for those already signed up.