On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the GOP's Obamacare repeal bill, determining that it would effectively kick 24 million Americans off of their health insurance plans within a decade. That's probably one reason just about nobody seems to be a fan of the bill. But lost amidst all of this is a new Trump quote on Obamacare that everyone is missing, and it's a pretty big one. It suggests, among other things, that the president may not be as gung-ho about repealing the law as his public statements would suggest.
"I’ve told the Republicans, ‘Why don’t you just let [Obamacare] go for another year?’ That way everybody will really understand how bad it is,” Trump allegedly said at a closed-door meeting, according to Politico. “The Republicans, frankly, are putting themselves in a very bad position — I tell this to Tom Price all the time — by repealing Obamacare."
Did you hear that? That was the Republican president telling his own cabinet that trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a bad idea. Which seems like a significant thing.
In all honesty, it's not a surprise to learn that Trump feels this way, as he's repeatedly indicated, both during the campaign and after taking office, that stripping people of their health coverage isn't something he supports. And when you think about it, this makes sense.
As the Atlantic observed last year, Trump clearly fancies himself a "protector" — a leader whose top priority is keeping the American people (at least, insofar as he defines "American") safe. Sure, there are about a billion reasons why this is a delusion: Trump's conception of "American people" seems to exclude immigrants, Muslims, trans people, and many others, and moreover, it's not at all clear that any of his policies will actually succeed in making Americans safer.
But even Trump's most concerning policies — such as the border wall and the travel ban — suggest that he wants to be viewed as a protector of Americans. And there's really no way in which stripping health insurance from 24 million people, many of them low-income, is protecting anybody, or making anybody safer. This is why I think Trump always insists that people won't be "dying in the streets" under his health plans. It's why he pledges "insurance for everybody."
Or, alternatively, maybe Trump simply knows the rather obvious fact that kicking a bunch of people off of their health care is a losing political strategy.
Regardless of the reasoning, the fact that the president is apparently backing off of the Obamacare repeal strategy raises an intriguing possibility: If the GOP bill basses, might Trump veto it? It sounds absurd, but Trump has always taken pride in operating independently of the Republican Party. Furthermore, he's happy to pick fights with the GOP when it suits his political purposes. And let's not forget that throwing millions of people off of their health insurance isn't exactly a great selling point when you're running for reelection.
The Republican health plan attracted near-universal scorn almost as soon as it was released. Now, it appears it might just have one more enemy: the president.