Trump blinks on Obamacare, clearing path for a spending deal

By Kelsey Snell, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is backing down from a threat to end subsidy payments under the Affordable Care Act, a concession to Democrats that is expected to clear the way for a bipartisan agreement to keep the government open past Friday.

White House officials notified lawmakers Wednesday that Trump plans to continue payments to insurers who provide coverage on the ACA exchanges, according to a White House budget official familiar with the talks. Trump had threatened to cut off the subsidies in an attempt to force Democrats to pay for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a fight that became less serious after Republicans withdrew their border wall request earlier this week.

“It is good that once again the president seems to be backing off his threat to hold health care and government funding hostage,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “Like the withdrawal of money for the wall, this decision brings us closer to a bipartisan agreement to fund the government and is good news for the American people.”

The pair of GOP concessions eases chances that the government will shut down this weekend but a number of smaller issues must be resolved before a spending deal can be finalized, according to several congressional aides involved in the talks. Democrats have refused to sign off on several GOP-written policy provisions, known as riders, including those that would restrict abortion access under the ACA and end Wall Street reforms passed under President Barack Obama.

Republicans have not indicated how they plan to handle the policy provisions but most GOP negotiators said they were pleased with the direction of the negotiations, despite allowing Democrats victories on the border wall and health care. The spending bill is expected to include several White House priorities like increases in border security and defense spending, including an unspecified amount to repair fencing and new surveillance technology to patrol the nearly 2,000-mile border, the aides said. Democrats have said they support increased border security as long as no money goes toward building a physical wall.

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