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In A Busy Week, Trump Tests The 'You Break It, You Own It' Rule


It was a big week of disruption for the disruptor in chief. President Trump took aim at two key parts of President Obama's legacy, the Affordable Care Act and the Iran nuclear deal. Frustrated by a stalled Congress, Trump is using a strategy he disparaged when Obama used it - executive action. For more, we're joined by national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Welcome.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Happy to be here.

MONTAGNE: Let's talk health care first. What did President Trump do exactly?

LIASSON: President Trump did two things to unravel Obamacare. He's been very frustrated that Congress hasn't repealed it, so he signed an executive order that allows a certain kind of health care plan that doesn't meet the Affordable Care Act's criteria - cheaper plans, doesn't cover as much. And those could pull younger, healthier people out of the system, leave older sicker people on the exchanges. And the other thing he did is that the government is going to stop paying cost-sharing subsidies to the insurance companies. Insurance companies still have to give discounts to low-income customers, but the government will no longer reimburse them for that. That means that since they're not being compensated, insurers will start charging higher premiums for everyone else.

MONTAGNE: So what do these executive actions on health care mean for the Republicans? I mean they, too, want to see Obamacare dismantled.

LIASSON: That's true. But Republicans in Congress are caught between the same rock and a hard place that they've always been with Obamacare, which is that the GOP base and their donors want them to repeal Obamacare. On the other hand, if they do that, voters - and in this case, a lot more voters in red states, Republican voters - are likely going to be hurt by the consequences of either repeal or the president's recent actions. Democrats are predicting that Americans will blame Republicans. They say with these two moves, President Trump owns health care. This is now Trumpcare. Whether or not Democrats are right or wrong about the politics of this, they are going to demand a continuation of the subsidies when the government-funding bill runs out sometime in December. Remember, Democrats and the president struck a deal to keep the government going only through December - into December. So Trump is going to need Democratic votes to keep the government open after that. And these subsidies are going to be part of the price Democrats will insist on in exchange for their votes.

MONTAGNE: OK, Mara, let's turn to the remarks President Trump made this week on the Iran nuclear deal. He called it, quote, "the worst deal ever." And that is something he said many times before.

LIASSON: That's true. And if you're a Trump supporter and you didn't delve into the details, you might think that he got rid of the Iran deal. But he didn't. The announcement was very big and showy, but the reality was a little bit less. The only way the U.S. can pull out of the Iran deal is if Congress reimposes sanctions. And very significantly, the president did not call on them to do that. He said he wants Congress to go after Iran in other ways outside of the agreement, like putting more sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. But he stopped short of blowing up the deal. If he did that, it could have led Iran to making a nuclear weapon very soon. So once again, as in health care, as with the DREAMers, now with Iran - big announcement, big rhetoric but the reality is he's punting the issue to Congress.

MONTAGNE: And just in brief, what do you think he's going to do - they're going to do?

LIASSON: I don't think Congress is in the mood to blow up the deal. The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said we should enforce the hell out of the current deal. So I think the bottom line is we might end up with a tougher position on Iran but with the nuclear deal intact.

MONTAGNE: That's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks very much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
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