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With a week to go before Election Day, cases of COVID-19 are rising across the country, and economic stimulus talks appear to be stalled. Brooke Rollins is acting director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. She joins Judy Woodruff to discuss where negotiations stand on providing another round of federal pandemic relief and President Trump’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
With a week to go before the election, COVID cases are rising, and economic stimulus talks in Washington appear to have stalled.
Let's bring in Brooke Rollins. She is the acting director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. And she joins us now.
Welcome to the "NewsHour."
Brooke Rollins, so we know that the president has been saying for months he wants a COVID relief package. He sent Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to negotiate. Then, at the beginning of October, the president said, no, the talks are off. Then he turned around and said, no, they're back on, with certain conditions.
Then we heard from the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that there shouldn't be any agreement until after the election. So, is this still a priority for the president?
Well, I think there's no doubt, Judy — thank you for having me, by the way.
I think there's no doubt. I'm not sure there's anyone in America who wants a deal, a stimulus package deal, more than President Trump. He has been hyper-focused on trying to make sure that Americans have what they need to get through this pandemic.
What I will say, also — and you're right — it's kind of gone back and forth — but that, ultimately, we have come back to the table and back to the table. And I think we have come up a few times. And I'm not sure that the House has been willing, that Speaker Pelosi has been willing to be as flexible and as willing to negotiate as we have.
But, once the election has passed, I think all the parties will come back to the table. And I really, sincerely believe that we will have a deal that will benefit Americans, all Americans, but especially those who need it the most.
Well, we have also heard there has been resistance.
I mean, Speaker — Majority Leader McConnell himself has said that there's resistance from a number of Republican senators.
My question is, why hasn't the president used his clout, his leverage with Republicans senators to get them to agree to something?
Well, I think his focus has been on, what is the best deal for the American people?
And I think he has said publicly — I'm not saying anything to get out in front of him — that the idea of sending hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out states and cities that have been poorly run just isn't fair to the American taxpayer.
And so I think that the Republicans in the Senate, not to put words in their mouth, but I think that's a big part of the concern, is how big the number is. There's $300 billion left unspent from the last deal.
So, how can we come together and ensure that this really is the best deal for the American people?
I'm asking because, as you know, the need is great in many of these cities.
We're — I'm also asking because I'm about to interview, after I speak with you, the mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot.
They are in terrible economic straits, and a number of other cities around the country, in both red states and blue states.
So, the question is, why hasn't there been more of a push from the White House?
Well, I think there has been a significant push.
I think maybe we have a different definition of what a push could look like. But we have tried and tried and tried. And keep in mind, the Democrats have not been willing to move one inch on the number. So, I think that saying that we haven't tried hard enough is not necessarily fair.
But I think we will continue to move forward. I think mayors in this country, like Mayor Lightfoot and others, coming to the table and letting us know what is important will certainly be part of that conversation.
But I think, too, we have to realize what's best for the American people and talk about the people in distress. The people who are being hurt the most by this lockdown and this pandemic are those in our most distressed communities, are those in our forgotten communities.
And we have to continue to build not only with the stimulus relief talks and a package, but continue to build the infrastructure for the economy to continue to build itself back up…
… and for the jobs to be there.
Let me also ask you about a health care plan.
The president has been saying since he was elected that he will present a health care plan to the American people.
We're now almost four years later. There still isn't one. Why not?
Judy, that's actually not — that's not true.
He rolled out his Great American Health Care plan on September 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is on the White House Web site. It talks and walks through lower costs, better care, more choice for all Americans and how he will do that, expanding health savings accounts, telemedicine…
But it hasn't been presented to the Congress in the form of a formal proposal.
Well — well, what his plan is what he's presenting to the American people.
He's tried to move things through the Congress. Of course, with the stalemate, it hasn't been possible. But, also, in the last three-and-a-half years, he's been able to do much through executive order, whether it's price transparency, affordable health care plans.
Keep in mind, Judy, that Medicare costs and premiums have come down, on average, 35 percent under this president, in some parts of the country, more than 50 percent.
We have expanded choice to 2,200 plans under Medicaid, 80 percent in choice. The health care system, and where we are today, because of the last three-and-a-half years, is in much better shape than what it was what was handed to us three-and-a-half years ago.
We will continue to build on that for all Americans, but especially those with preexisting conditions, which this president has been unequivocal about.
Well, and that's — well, that's — and that's an issue of great disagreement, because there have — Republicans have not been united on preserving preexisting conditions.
And, right now, the Supreme Court may be on the verge of knocking out Obamacare altogether. You're leaving tens of millions of Americans without coverage.
And my question is, what — where's the safety net? What's going to protect those Americans, if that happens?
Well, thank you for bringing up Obamacare. I would love to talk about that.
So, first of all, the exaltation of Obamacare just doesn't make any sense. So, this idea that the Affordable Care Act, that Obamacare is providing everyone with preexisting conditions the most amazing care just isn't true.
So, I will say this. The Affordable Care Act is up at the U.S. Supreme Court next week for argument. The decision will come down probably middle of next year.
In the meantime, the president has already improved the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, the exchanges. Premiums are down 8 percent, after having gone up 35 percent under President Obama. And there's a lot more choice.
So, we will continue to improve what the system currently is. If it is rightly struck down, which this president has been — getting to your question…
That's the question, if it's struck down.
If it is struck down, if the president, who rightly has called for it being moved off and something better put in place, Judy, there's $1.8 trillion currently set aside for the next 10 years to subsidize through the insurance exchanges, et cetera.
That $1.8 trillion under this president will be redeployed to the millions of Americans who are on the Affordable Care Act, less than 10 percent of our population, but, nevertheless, millions of Americans. And that money will go directly to them, rather than to the special interests, to the insurance companies that have caused the prices to go so far up.
Brooke Rollins, acting director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, thank you very much.
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