President Donald Trump in the White House on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump in the White House on Tuesday. Credit: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

What, no miracle cure?

No worries, President Donald Trump told the country last week when his administration moved in court to blow up Obamacare in its entirety. The GOP will be "the party of health care" and conjure up a replacement plan. He told Republicans in Congress to get right on that.

That was an unwelcome surprise to the Republicans in Congress. Less surprising, given his history, is Trump's retreat this week via a series of tweets. He said Republicans would wait to introduce a replacement plan after the 2020 election "when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House.”

That's quite a risky bet for the future of America's health care coverage. And if Trump's claim that Republicans "are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare" sounds like you've heard it before, it's because you have.

Trump ran in 2016 with vague claims of having surefire solutions up his sleeve. "You're going to have such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost — and it's going to be so easy," he said.

The president largely stood back in 2017 as Republicans in Congress beat each other up with competing plans to repeal Obamacare. After shifting positions several times, he got behind what he hoped would pass. It did not. In 2018, Democrats campaigned hard on the health care issue and took back the House. Republicans have no stomach to run on Obamacare repeal in 2020.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, at a Tuesday news conference, said he spoke with Trump on Monday and encouraged him to back off. “I made it clear to him we were not going to be doing that in the Senate,” McConnell said. Trump said the change in timing was his idea.

Democrats depicted Trump and Republicans as afflicted with the pre-existing condition of offering no credible alternatives. "Last night the president tweeted that they will come up with their plan in 2021. Translation: they have no health care plan. It’s the same old song they’ve been singing. They’re for repeal. They have no replace,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Trump redraws lines on border

When Trump first threatened to close the southern border last week, it was an ultimatum to Mexico to curb the flow of U.S.-bound migrants. On Tuesday, he put the onus on Democrats on Capitol Hill. "If we don’t make a deal with Congress, the border’s going to be closed, 100 percent," he said.

Trump also brushed off fears that the disruption of cross-border commerce could set off a chain reaction of economic damage. While “it will have a negative effect on the economy,” he declared, “security is most important."

The president had said he would act this week and shut the border completely. His revised posture is that he might only close "large sections of the border" and "maybe not all of it." Administration officials floated the idea of letting truck traffic through.

McConnell, who often tries for a mild tone when signaling disagreement with Trump, took a harsh line against a closure. "We certainly have a crisis on the border," but "closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country and I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing." For more, see Newsday's story by Figueroa.

Janison: Dealing himself out

Negotiating important agreements with Congress turns out not to be Trump's strong suit, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

The president was going to allow a budget deal without a border wall, but suddenly reversed course and forced a record-long shutdown of government agencies. Then he caved.

Trump blames lawmakers for immigration laws he dislikes. But there is no sign he's trying to sell them a practical measure with a chance to pass.

A new round of gridlock looms in the coming months over the nation's debt ceiling, spending and the potential for automatic cuts to programs.

Setting boundaries for Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered some public advice to Joe Biden for his future encounters with women after some say he's been too up-close and personal: Stay a literal arm's length away.

“Join the straight-arm club,” Pelosi said. “Just pretend you have a cold and I have a cold.” She said Biden, called out recently by women who said they received uninvited a kiss on the back of the head and a rubbing of noses, “has to understand that in the world we are in now, people's space is important to them, and what's important is how they receive it, not necessarily how you intended it.”

The former vice president has told supporters the controversy won't affect his decision on joining the 2020 Democratic race for president and remains “full steam ahead,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Trump: It's Puerto Rico vs. USA

Aren't Puerto Ricans Americans? You wouldn't think so from Trump's tweets complaining about Democrats opposing a disaster aid bill because they wanted more for Puerto Rico.

"Cannot continue to hurt our Farmers and States with these massive payments," said Trump, claiming "Puerto Rico has already been scheduled to receive more hurricane relief funding than any 'place' in history." Puerto Rico's leaders "spend the money foolishly or corruptly, & only take from USA," Trump tweeted. It's not also the USA?

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley twice referred to Puerto Rico as "that country" during an MSNBC appearance to defend Trump's tweets. Gidley afterward said that was a "slip of the tongue." Actually, it was two slips. Trump's math was worse. His tweets claimed Puerto Rico has received $91 billion in aid. The real number is $11 billion.

Trump groused there was "so little appreciation" when "the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico is President Donald J. Trump."

Appreciate this: There are more than 66,000 U.S. military veterans and family members interred at the Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamon. Another 1,900 are added each year. More than 1,200 Puerto Ricans fought and died for the United States in wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. "That country" is this country.

What else is happening:

  • Eleven Democratic contenders for the White House will visit midtown Manhattan this week to campaign at the National Action Network convention hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, an annual event seen as essential for outreach to black voters. See Newsday's story by Emily Ngo.
  • If Biden doesn't run, Michael Bloomberg may reconsider his decision to forgo the race, Axios reports, citing people who have discussed the matter with the former New York mayor. His thinking is that there would be less competition among centrists.
  • Accused repeatedly of sexual overreach, the president mocked Biden at an elite GOP fundraiser, where in an awkward moment he claimed credit for transforming the Republican Party.
  • Former FBI Director James Comey told CNN that Attorney General William Barr deserves "the benefit of the doubt" when it comes to how he is deciding what to release and withhold from Robert Mueller's report.
  • Trump said after Mueller sent his report to Barr that he had no problem with releasing it, but now is showing growing irritation at that prospect. "These are just Democrats that want to try and demean this country, and it shouldn't be allowed ... anything you give them, it will never be enough," he told reporters.
  • More first-quarter fundraising numbers are in for Democratic contenders: Sen. Bernie Sanders is out front with $18.2 million, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris at $12 million and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at $7 million.
  • Pelosi, speaking at a Politico event, said the Democratic-led House won't consider Trump's NAFTA-replacement trade pact with Mexico and Canada until after Mexico has passed and implemented its major labor law reforms.
  • Besides being compulsive, Trump's lying can be inexplicable. Meeting with a NATO official Tuesday, Trump said his father was "born in a very wonderful place in Germany," even though Fred Trump was born in the Bronx. Moreover, both father and son claimed to be of Swedish ancestry when World War II was a fresher memory and they thought a German connection was bad for business with Jewish customers.
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