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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Trump to let Obamacare fail without proposing alternative

As political problems pile up for the president, he sets a dangerous new course dubbed the 'Joker option'

Opposition to President Donald Trump's attempts to repeal his predecessor's affordable health care act have led to deep fissures in American society EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS
Opposition to President Donald Trump's attempts to repeal his predecessor's affordable health care act have led to deep fissures in American society EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

With his signature healthcare reforms package potentially lying in tatters around him, US president Donald Trump has set out a new and politically risky plan for the nation’s health.

Despite being already besieged on many fronts including alleged collusion with Russian elements before the 2016 election, Mr Trump’s latest bold move is to let the current system, dubbed Obamacare, fail, regardless of the personal consequences for millions of Americans.

“I'm not going to own it,” the president told reporters, referring to his predecessor’s health care system which expanded health insurance coverage and tried to reduce costs. “I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.”

Mr Trump and the party that he is notionally the leader of, but with which he has fought since assuming office in January 2017, saw a Senate vote to repeal Obamacare fail on Monday.

The party has just a four-seat majority in the 100-member upper chamber, which meant that after three Republican senators refused to back the vote, the majority evaporated in the face of rock-solid Democratic opposition.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said that the Republicans were "playing a dangerous game" with the US healthcare system.

"[They are] actively, actively trying to undermine the healthcare system in this country using millions of Americans as political pawns in a cynical game", Mr Schumer said on Tuesday.

Few imagine that the latest attempt to enforce a settlement will work out for the president. The BBC’s Anthony Zurcher referred to it as “Mr Trump's ‘Joker’ option for Obamacare repeal. Do nothing, and watch the world burn.

Like with the cartoon villain, “explaining how your dastardly plan will go down seldom works [in the movies] and it may not be the best strategy for presidents either,” Zurcher wrote for BBC News.

“By telling Americans he's going to let the US healthcare system collapse in order to rally support for an eventual fix, he's essentially taking responsibility for anything bad that happens in the coming days.”

Meanwhile, in other developments swirling around the president, the congressional panel looking into links between the Trump campaign and Moscow has indicated it wants to interview his son, Donald Trump Jr.

Reports of a meeting between campaign staff and Russian nationals have led to claims that there was foreign intervention in last year’s presidential campaign to aid the Republican nominee - a claim denied by both the Russians and Mr Trump.

Last week, Mr Trump Jr released emails which he had sent to a Russian government lawyer who it had been suggested could supply damaging information about Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow's official support for his father's campaign.

That meeting now looks set to form the crux of any investigation into alleged collusion.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Republican Senator Richard Burr told reporters: “Any intelligence out there that suggests that somebody is of interest to us, we have to pursue it. We've now got an email chain that makes that (the meeting) a very important aspect to get into.”