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Trump health picks raise questions on his Medicare promise

Donald Trump has tapped Rep. Tom Price to

Donald Trump has tapped Rep. Tom Price to head up the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Price favors transforming Medicare into a voucher-like program. Nov. 16, 2016 Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

Medicare facing the knife?

During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump said more than once that Medicare was untouchable, and attacked Republicans who wanted to revamp it. “It’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut,” he said. “I’m not gonna do that!”

Now, he has chosen GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Price favors transforming Medicare into a voucher-like program for future participants. Critics say such as system would fail to keep up with inflation and cause higher out-of-pocket costs.

Trump also named Seema Verma to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Under Mike Pence as Indiana governor, she worked to put a conservative cast on that state’s Medicaid program.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader, said Democrats were prepared to fight against “a war on seniors.” Of Price, he said, “There is a chance his nomination will fail” — though that would require signing up Republicans as opponents.

Goldman Sachs alum to Treasury

Trump as soon as Wednesday is expected to name Steven Mnuchin, his campaign’s finance chief, as secretary of the treasury, multiple reports said.

Mnuchin — like the president-elect’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon — worked for years at Goldman Sachs, the firm targeted during the campaign as part of a Wall Street elite that victimized working Americans.

Mnuchin also built his fortune by a creating a hedge fund and financing Hollywood films. NPR said he also led the acquisition in 2009 of a California bank that foreclosed on tens of thousands of homes after the housing bust.

Syosset HS grad in Cabinet

Elaine Chao, who served both presidents Bush and is also Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, will be nominated to lead the Department of Transportation, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.

The transportation secretary will have a key role in helping realize Trump’s ambitions to rev up investment in infrastructure.

Chao also served as the deputy secretary of transportation under President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1991 and secretary of labor under President George W. Bush from 2001 through 2009. She is a native of Taiwan and also has roots in Queens and Nassau County, where she graduated from Syosset High School in 1971.

Trump comes through on Carrier

Trump has won an agreement from Carrier, the air conditioner maker, to scale back a plan to move 1,500 jobs to Mexico. It will keep nearly 1,000 of them in Indiana, the company and the transition team said.

Carrier’s original plan was seized on as a campaign issue by Trump, who said he would save and bring back American jobs. Carrier will get Trump’s commitment for regulation and taxing policies that are more business-friendly.

His dinner with Mitt

With all the eyes on Trump’s dinner Tuesday night with Mitt Romney — the secretary of state contender reviled by some in the president-elect’s inner circle — why let a branding opportunity go to waste?

Romney and Trump — joined by incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus — dined at Jean-Georges in the Trump International Hotel & Tower by Columbus Circle.

Romney told a pool reporter afterward he was “impressed” with how Trump is handling the transition. He did not respond to questions about whether he apologized for his past blistering criticism of Trump and refused to say who picked up the check.

There was no immediate after-dinner comment or tweet from Trump, who went out a different exit.

Absolutely factless

There’s no sign of backing down from Trump on his fact-free claim that he lost the popular vote because millions voted illegally. He unleashed a retweet-storm of fans who agree with him, though none of them offered evidence, either.

Trump ally Newt Gingrich told USA Today that the fraud claim tweet was the president-elect’s worst mistake since winning the election.

A president “can’t randomly tweet without having somebody check it out,” said Gingrich. “It makes you wonder about whatever else he’s doing. It undermines much more than a single tweet.” Asked if he saw evidence of such fraud, Gingrich said “No.”

A notable Gingrich observation from meeting with Trump last week: “He commented, ‘This is really a bigger job than I thought.’ Which is good. He should think that.”

Few salute Trump flag idea

Trump stirred new controversy with a Tuesday morning tweet that anyone who burns the American flag should face “consequences ... perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

GOP congressional leaders, while in agreement that flag-burning is offensive, did not rally to Trump’s idea.

“The Supreme Court has held that that activity is a protected First Amendment right, a form of unpleasant speech, and in this country we have a long tradition of respecting unpleasant speech,” said McConnell.

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a strong conservative, said it was the kind of symbolic speech “that tyrants would seek to suppress.”

As seen on TV

When Trump was asked on “Meet the Press” last year whom he talks with for military advice, he said, “Well, I watch the shows.”

Now, as he casts his administration, many of those whom Trump is interviewing became familiar to him as cable news pundits and analysts, The Washington Post reports.

What else is happening

  • Billionaire Wilbur Ross will be named commerce secretary, CBS News said.
  • Many Capitol Hill Republicans are weary of being asked for reactions to Trump’s Twitter outbursts, Politico reports. “I’m not commenting on Donald Trump’s daily comments,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
  • Federal procurement experts say that once he comes president, Trump will be legally barred from holding the lease from the federal government for his new luxury hotel in Washington, NBC News reports.
  • Trump is launching a “thank you” tour Thursday with a rally for supporters in a Cincinnati arena.
  • Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a fence-mending phone conversation with Trump on Monday, Politico said.
  • Former Vice President Dan Quayle stopped by Trump Tower Tuesday to offer his “personal congratulations” to the president-elect. He also had breakfast with Pence, a fellow Indianan.


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