First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
WASHINGTON — Remember Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn Rule" — if you break it, you own it? Well, consider the actions that the Trump administration has taken, including over the last 24 hours:
- Way back in February, it announced it was shortening Obamacare's enrollment period, which begins on November 1, from 12 weeks to just six weeks;
- In August, it slashed Obamacare's advertising budget by 90 percent, from $100 million to $10 million;
- It cut funding for non-profit groups that help sign up Americans to purchase insurance under Obamacare, the New York Times reported earlier this week;
- President Trump personally pulled the plug on Iowa's work to fix its state marketplace, the Washington Post said last week;
- Then Thursday morning, Trump signed an executive order that could allow some Americans to purchase cheaper insurance plans, which would reduce the ranks of healthy, younger people in the Obamacare markets;
- And then last night, the White House announced it was ending key Obamacare subsidies that help pay out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans.
Any one of these moves, by itself, could be considered neglect. But taken together, they make a strong case that the Trump administration is deliberately trying to break Obamacare. After all, if fewer people enroll in the marketplaces, premiums will go up and fewer insurers will participate.
"Cutting health care subsidies will mean more uninsured in my district. @POTUS promised more access, affordable coverage. This does opposite," Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., tweeted last night in response to the Trump administration's subsidy announcement.
Trump himself seemed to suggest that he was ending this subsidy to force Democrats to negotiate (which they're ALREADY doing, given the ongoing negotiations between Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.)
"The Democrats Obamacare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!" Trump tweeted this morning.
Republicans might think the law is already broken. But why make it worse? Can anyone say — with a straight face — that these actions, together, improve the law?
So who gets blamed if premiums go higher than they currently are? And who's at fault if more insurers bolt the Obamacare markets?
Back in April, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 64 percent of Americans saying that Trump and Republicans control the government, and they are responsible for any problems with the health-care law going forward, versus just 28 percent who said they'd point the finger at Barack Obama and congressional Democrats for passing the law.
Does Congress try to fix things? Trump's actions on health care raise a separate question
Does Congress try to fix things, especially given the ongoing Alexander-Murray negotiations? Are Democrats patient enough to remain at the negotiation table? Do Republicans extend a hand?
Oh, remember one other thing: There is no confirmed HHS secretary (after Tom Price resigned).
Collins won't run for governor, will stay in the Senate
The big question about moderate Senate Republican Susan Collins got an answer this morning: She'll pass on a gubernatorial run and stay in the Senate. At an event in Maine, she said she believes she can do the most good by staying in her current job.
"I want to continue to play a key role in advancing policies that strengthen our economy, help our hard-working families, improve our health care system, and bring peace and stability to a violent and troubled world," she said. "And I have concluded that the best way that I can contribute to these priorities is to remain a member of the United States Senate."
Paul Ryan on Trump's disputes with fellow Republicans: 'We have kind of learned to deal with it'
In an interview for her upcoming MSNBC show that NBC's Kasie Hunt held with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Hunt asked Ryan about all of Trump's disputes with fellow Republicans. Ryan's answer: "We have kind of learned to deal with it."
HUNT: The president has regularly engaged in disputes with various members, Bob Corker, most recently, Ben Sasse over the first amendment. Is that helpful to your agenda?
RYAN: It's what he does. We have kind of learned to live with it. He and I — not on this particular issue — but we have had our own engagements in the past too. I don't think it — what I am trying to get our members to do is just focus on doing our jobs. We are here elected to represent our constituents, to advance our principles, pass solutions that's what we are focused on and I try to get our members to just not get distracted by these things.
No one should care what Denny Hastert has to say about congressional dysfunction
Speaking of House speakers, Newsweek spoke with former House Speaker Denny Hastert to get his views on Congress' dysfunction.
We agree with the folks at Politico: "WHO BROKE JOURNALISM? — On Thursday it was Newsweek, which drifted into an obscene, alternate universe where it somehow believed it was appropriate to feature Dennis Hastert in a political story headlined "Who Broke Congress?" by Alexander Nazaryan, with a subhed: 'Dennis Hastert breaks two-year silence to deny role in gridlock.'"
Dueling veeps campaign in Virginia
Finally, Saturday will feature dueling vice presidents — former VP Joe Biden and current VP Mike Pence — campaigning in Virginia's gubernatorial race.