America has never had a presidency quite like Donald Trump's. His art-of-the-deal approach to governing has fellow Republicans cringing whenever he makes an unexpected move that not only puts his political interests above his party's but also threatens its future existence.
Take Trump's decision last week to stop reimbursing insurance companies for discounts to lower-income customers with Affordable Care Act policies. If a Congressional Budget Office analysis is right, that primarily middle-class families will be hurt by Trump's move, the Republican Party will feel the pain later.
That's fine with former Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon, who since leaving the White House in August has called for a GOP purge. Bannon, who wants Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pay for failing to kill Obamacare, hailed Trump's subsidies decision. Trump is "gonna blow that thing up," Bannon said Saturday, talking about Obamacare at a Values Voter Summit in Washington.
Trump said he won't end the subsidies if the Senate finds a way to end Obamacare. But the Department of Health and Human Services said the subsidies would end immediately, citing an opinion by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Obama White House overstepped its authority in agreeing to reimburse insurance companies for discounted premiums.
The CBO pointed out that low-income policyholders will qualify for assistance to help them pay the higher premiums insurance companies will charge if they lose their Obamacare subsidies. But middle-class families, whose higher incomes disqualify them for premium assistance, may pay up to 20 percent more for health insurance in 2018 and 25 percent by 2020.
The budget office said Trump's decision would also increase the federal deficit – by $6 billion in 2018, $21 billion in 2020, and $26 billion in 2026 – because the government will have to pay larger subsidies to low-income families to cover the higher premiums they must pay after the insurance companies stop receiving subsidies.
All these contortions just so Trump can convince his neo-conservative base that, unlike the Republican congressional leadership, he hasn't given up on killing Obamacare.
Trump has taken a similar approach to immigration, giving Sessions the green light to crack down on sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia and threatening to deport the "Dreamers," nearly 700,000 immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents.
The Justice Department sent Mayor Kenney a letter giving him until Oct. 27 to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold people arrested for other crimes who may be in the country illegally. Noncompliance could cost Philadelphia a $1.67 million grant it received last year for police overtime and training. But the city has filed for an injunction that it hopes will prevent that.
Meanwhile, Trump has toned down his rhetoric about deporting Dreamers, suggesting, as he has done with health care, that perhaps a deal could be made. The bargain would include funding for the border wall he promised would be paid for by Mexico.