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Trump declared Obamacare dead, but there’s still a pulse

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania arrive

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania arrive for Christmas Eve service at the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in West Palm Beach, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. Credit: AP / Carolyn Kaster

ACA still ticking

When Congress passed the tax overhaul plan last week, Donald Trump portrayed the win as a twofer. “We have essentially repealed Obamacare,” the president said.

Not yet. The tax legislation included an end to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate that pressures Americans to get health insurance. There are predictions premiums will rise as a result. But the measure is far short of the sweeping repeal-and-replace bills Republicans failed to pass this year.

In 2018, Republican leaders in Congress and the Trump administration plan new efforts to chip away at part of Obamacare, but are less likely to make a bid soon to do away with it entirely, The Washington Post reports.

Some reasons for caution: Public support is near its high-water mark, and almost 9 million people signed up for Obamcare plans during the latest enrollment period even as the administration squelched promotion efforts.

The law’s longer-term fate hinges on results of the 2018 midterm elections. If Democrats take either chamber in Congress, the law will be protected. If Republicans hold on, they could be emboldened to try again for a broad repeal.

Janison: Bottom lines

The tax law passed by the Republican Congress and signed by Trump takes effect in 2018, and only as the year unfolds will its economic and political impact start to become clear, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Winners and losers are still being sorted out. For example, the pain to upper-middle-class taxpayers of losing state and local deductions could be eased by the big boost in the threshold for paying an alternative minimum tax — up from $160,900 to $1 million.

The corporate rate cut was sold as fuel for an economic boom. If that doesn’t happen, ballooning deficits could bring a trickle-down threat to Medicare and Social Security.

Peace in tweets

There was not a snarly or boastful tweet to be found on Trump’s Twitter account on Christmas morning. Instead, a video prerecorded in the White House featured the president and first lady Melania Trump celebrating the holiday and the Christmas spirit.

By midafternoon, it had received more than 120,000 likes and 32,000 retweets.

But after night fell, Trump unwrapped a box of brag:

Trump tweeted: “I hope everyone is having a great Christmas, then tomorrow it’s back to work in order to Make America Great Again (which is happening faster than anyone anticipated)!”

On Christmas Eve, the Trumps motorcaded from Mar-a-Lago to attend mass at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach. In his sermon, the Rev. James R. Harlan quoted Nelson Mandela about the power of words to do good or harm.

“Your words can have as much destructive potential as they do healing,” Harlan said. “God’s word is pure light.”

Two-way trolls

The Russian-led online trolls who pushed for Trump’s election didn’t go away after he won — they just returned to their long-held mission: sowing discord in U.S. society and undermining American global influence, The Washington Post reports.

But while Trump’s presidency and policies have become a Russian disinformation target, administration officials haven’t agreed on a response. As for Trump, his recent public statements suggest he still thinks he is building a good relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

What else is happening:

  • Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, who will leave office Dec. 31, says he still has hopes for an appointment from the Trump administration, Newsday’s Rick Brand reports. GOP officials have said DeMarco was under consideration for a job as a U.S. marshal in New York City.
  • Scotland’s government is doing away with a tax break for Trump’s Turnberry golf resort.
  • Trump administration regulators are proposing to roll back safety measures put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which killed 11 workers and fouled shorelines along the Gulf of Mexico, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reports.
  • Trump will be the first president in almost a century to conclude his first year in office without holding a state dinner for a foreign leader, The Associated Press reports. Trump has been feted with state visits by China, South Korea and Vietnam.

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