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Trump's health care crusade runs into trouble in courts and Congress

When it comes to Trump's regressive health care agenda, the courts and Congress are telling the president the same thing: "No."
A family practice provider uses a stethoscope to examine a patient in an exam room. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)
A family practice provider uses a stethoscope to examine a patient in an exam room.

On Wednesday, a federal court rejected Medicaid work requirements that the Trump administration has endorsed across much of the country. A day later, the White House's "association health plans" were also struck down by a different federal judge.

Donald Trump's newfound interest in passing a Republican health care plan is predicated, at least in part, by the possibility that the courts will tear down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. If this week is any indication of where the fight is headed, the president's political goals may be a moot point.

Away from the courts, Trump wants lawmakers to do what he promised and failed to do -- come up with a GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act -- though as Politico reports, the appeal isn't going over especially well.

Mitch McConnell has no intention of leading President Donald Trump's campaign to transform the GOP into the "party of health care.""I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing and what he can work out with the speaker," McConnell said in a brief interview Thursday.

Or put another way, the Senate Republican leader effectively told the president, "If you want a health care plan, go write one, because I'm not doing it."

That said, Trump also told reporters yesterday afternoon that GOP lawmakers are "going to work together, come up with something that's really spectacular," which he's certain is "going to be far better than Obamacare."

Whether these efforts are real is not yet clear.

Either way, let's not forget that Republicans have been working on their alternative to the Affordable Care Act for about a decade now, and they've never been able to present a credible and coherent blueprint. The president is nevertheless certain that the new plan, which doesn't exist, is going to be both "spectacular" and superior to the status quo -- even as Mitch McConnell suggests the onus is on the White House, not the Congress, to come up with a plan.

Postscript: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement late yesterday on the Democrats' "plan for a government takeover" of the health care system.

It was a strange, oddly written statement -- it seemed more like a missive on a far-right blog than an official statement from the White House -- that attacked a proposal that Sanders never actually identified.

I honestly have no idea what "plan" the president's press secretary was referring to. House Democrats did unveil a new package this week of possible health care reforms, but they're modest tweaks of the existing ACA.

And yet, Sanders' statement said, "Unfortunately, the Democrats' radical idea would force a complete and total government takeover of the healthcare system. This socialist agenda would result in 180 Million Americans losing their healthcare coverage and, in particular, would drastically hurt seniors."

What in the world is this referring to? Your guess is as good as mine.

Update: Dylan Scott had a good piece on the administration's recent court defeats on health care: "Some of the losses have come on technical grounds, with judges chastising the administration for pushing through new regulations without properly accounting for their consequences or public comments on the proposals. But more fundamentally, the Trump administration has been so aggressive in its regulations on health care that the courts have decided they are actually violating federal law."