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Team Trump Makes Health Care Promises It Probably Can't Keep

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter
Image: Trump walks out of the Oval Office to board Marine One
President Donald J. Trump walks out of the Oval Office to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on Jan. 26, 2017. President Trump is on a day trip to Philadelphia to meet with Republican lawmakers.Shawn Thew / EPA

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter

Team Trump makes health-care promises it probably can’t keep

Former President Barack Obama ultimately couldn’t keep his promise that “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it.” But over the weekend, top Trump administration officials made promises about the Republican health-care efforts that could make that old Obama line seem quaint:

  • “I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we're going through, understanding that they'll have choices that they can select the kinda coverage that they want for themselves and for their family,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said on “Meet the Press” yesterday.
  • “We believe, I believe, and the president believes firmly that if you create a system that's accessible for everybody and you provide the financial feasibility for everybody to get coverage, that we have a great opportunity to increase coverage over where we are right now,” Price added on “Meet the Press.”
  • “Just because you spend less money on something doesn't mean it can't get better,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said about phasing out Medicaid expansion on CNN.
  • “We want everybody to have care,” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on “Today” this morning.

To sum up the promises: No one will be worse off financially (even though one analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation says that a 60-year-old in Northumberland County, PA making $40,000 will get about $7,000 less in assistance under the House GOP plan); coverage will increase (even though the Brookings Institution expects that 15 million Americans will lose their coverage under the House GOP plan); and phasing out Medicaid expansion won’t negatively impact anyone.

Is today CBO Judgment Day?

As early as today, the Congressional Budget Office could give us official answers on these promises -- projecting how much the House GOP health plan will cost and how many (or few) it will cover. As NBC’s Benjy Sarlin notes, Trump administration officials have already been trying to downplay the CBO’s upcoming scores. “White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn called the CBO's analysis ‘meaningless’ on ‘Fox News Sunday,’” Sarlin writes. “‘If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place,’ White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters last week.”

But here’s the reality, per Sarlin: “The CBO's projections on President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act were mixed, but a 2015 study by the Commonwealth Fund found they were the closest to the mark among major nonpartisan analysts.” Also: “The White House has previously accused holdovers from the Obama administration of undermining its agenda, but that argument won't hold with the CBO, whose current director, Keith Hall, was selected by Republican Congressional leaders in 2015 and previously served as an economist for President George W. Bush.”

Attacking the “Deep State” might not be productive when you’re having trouble filling out your own government

Two different — and contradictory — forces are at play in the first 50 days of the Trump administration. One, top White House officials believe they’re seeing a sinister “Deep State” burrowed in government as they’re working to cut funds for many of these departments and agencies. Two, as the New York Times writes, Team Trump has gotten off to an incredibly slow start in filling out its own political appointees. “While Mr. Trump has won confirmation of 18 members of his cabinet, he has not nominated anyone for more than 500 other vital posts and has fallen behind his predecessors in filling the important second- and third-tier positions that carry out most of the government’s crucial daily functions. As of Sunday, he had sent to the Senate 36 nominations for critical positions, just over half of the 70 sent by President Barack Obama.”

But it’s the worst of all worlds if you 1) don’t have faith in your civil servants, and 2) are slowing in putting together your own political team.

McCain expects more “shoes to drop” in Russia probe

Don’t miss what Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told CNN over the weekend. “[T]here's a lot of things about our relations with Russia that trouble me a lot. For example, why was the provision in the Republican platform that called for the provision of defensive weapons to Ukraine, after being invaded by Russia, why was that taken out of the Republican platform? Clearly, it was not the will of most Republicans. There's a lot of aspects of this whole relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin that requires further scrutiny. And, so far, I don't think the American people have gotten all the answers. In fact, I think there's a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.”

White House has declined to offer evidence that Trump has donated his presidential salary

NBC’s Ari Melber: “President Donald Trump pledged to forgo a presidential salary, but as his second payday approaches, the White House is declining to say if the president has donated any of his earnings yet. During the campaign, Trump promised he would take ‘no salary’ if elected — a pledge he reiterated after he won. ‘I'm not going to the take the salary,’ he said on CBS' ‘60 Minutes’ in November.

The Constitution, however, requires that the president receive a salary, and that it not be reduced during his term. Federal law mandates the president receive a $400,000 annual salary, paid out once a month. Trump aides have previously said Trump would donate his salary to the Treasury Department or a charity.”

Fellow Republicans criticize Rep. Steve King’s “somebody else’s babies” remark

“U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who last July said white Christians have contributed more to Western civilization than any other “subgroup,” on Sunday found himself again the subject of criticism, this time for saying that Muslim children are preventing “our civilization” from being restored,” writes the Des Moines Register. “King, who was retweeting a message endorsing Geert Wilders, a far-right candidate for Dutch prime minister, said Wilders “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.” Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) tweeted, “@SteveKingIA What exactly do you mean? Do I qualify as "somebody else's baby?" #concernedGOPcolleague.” Added former Jeb Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell, “Embarrassed to be a member of the same party as Steve King.”

Trump’s Day

At 11:00 am ET, President Trump holds a listening session on health care… At 3:00 pm ET, he meets with his cabinet… At 4:30 pm ET, he will sign an executive order entitled “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch”… And at 6:30 pm ET, he has dinner with Secretary of State Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

What were other presidents doing on March 13?

  • Barack Obama promises to steer clear of “protectionist sentiments,” saying that he’ll continue to push for strong trade
  • George W. Bush says the media should stop “re-voting” by continuing to analyze Florida’s ballots, arguing that the American people are “looking forward” past the election
  • Janet Reno, Bill Clinton’s pick for attorney general, is finally confirmed
  • George H.W. Bush vows to take on polluters and push new legislation to fight acid rain
  • Ronald Reagan defends his proposed cuts to welfare
  • Jimmy Carter meets with a special government commission to investigate those missing in action from the Vietnam War

Heading to SXSW? So is Chuck!

Hear from him this Tuesday, March 14th at 5 p.m. CT as he explores if big data is destroying the U.S. political system along with Cornell Belcher and Sara Fagen: