WASHINGTON — Top White House officials on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s recent vows to repeal the Affordable Care Act, close the U.S.-Mexico border and halt federal funding to three Central American nations.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the Trump administration will “come up” with a replacement to the Obama-era health care program, when asked about the Justice Department’s determination to back a lower court decision invalidating the Obama-era Affordable Care Act last week. The lower court decision is on hold pending an appeal.
“What we’re going to do over the course of the next couple of months, because the lawsuit will move fairly slowly, is to come up with something that can pass into law,” Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when host Jake Tapper noted that the Trump administration had yet to provide details on a replacement plan.
Mulvaney said the plan would offer the same guarantee of coverage to those with pre-existing conditions as required under the Affordable Care Act.
“The debate about pre-existing conditions is over. Both parties support them," Mulvaney said.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Mulvaney said it would take “something dramatic” for Trump not to close the southern U.S. border, after the president on Friday tweeted that the United States would close official ports of entry “if Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States.”
Mulvaney said Trump was threatening to close the border as a matter of border security, “not for spite … but to simply say, look, we need the people from the ports of entry to go out and patrol in the desert where we don't have any wall."
The president has faced pushback from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and several business groups, who contend shutting the border will hurt trade and the economy.
“If the president shuts the border down, even for a short period of time, trade would crash to a screeching halt,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “When he shut the San Ysidro port of entry down for five hours in November, San Diego shop owners lost $5.3 million in sales.”
White House counsel Kellyanne Conway told “Fox News Sunday” that Trump was not bluffing when he raised the prospect of closing the border as early as this week. She added that it was up to Congress to “fix this” by supporting the president’s immigration agenda, which failed to get support when Republicans were in control of both chambers of Congress during Trump's first two years in office.
“It certainly isn’t a bluff. You can take the president seriously," Conway said.
Conway also defended Trump’s decision to cut nearly $500 million in federal aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The three Central American countries are grappling with widespread poverty and gang violence and large numbers of their citizens have sought asylum in the United States.
“We need to send a message,” Conway told Fox News host Chris Wallace.
Mulvaney, on “State of the Union,” said in exchange for the funding, the trio of countries and Mexico “could do more” to stop the migrants.
"We could prevent a lot of what's happening on the southern border by preventing people from moving into Mexico in the first place,” Mulvaney said.
Trump’s announcement on Friday came as a delegation of congressional Democrats was visiting El Salvador. The group, including Reps. Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler of New York, called Trump’s decision “counterproductive” in a statement issued Saturday and vowed to “do everything in our power to push back on the president’s misguided approach to Central America.”