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What Happens When Trump Sends Key Policy Issues To Congress


President Trump announced today that he wouldn't recertify the Iran nuclear deal. That doesn't mean that he's pulling out of the multi-nation agreement, at least not yet. Instead he's calling on Congress to pass a new law to address what he describes as the deal's many flaws. Sending a thorny problem over to Congress to solve is something the president has done before, as NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In a speech from the Diplomatic Room at the White House, President Trump said Iran is not living up to the spirit of the nuclear deal.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification.

KEITH: That announcement opens the door for congressional action, and that's exactly what Trump is asking for.


TRUMP: I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal's many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.

KEITH: And with that, President Trump dumped another item on Congress's already very full plate. Last night, he announced another decision that could well require Congress to step in - halting cost-sharing subsidy payments to insurance companies. Those payments were designed to keep premiums down for low-income consumers, but Trump said they are illegal and just a gift to insurance companies. Speaking at the Value Voters Summit this morning, Trump said stopping the payments was part of an effort to undo the Affordable Care Act.


TRUMP: One by one, it's going to come down. And we're going to have great health care in our country.


TRUMP: We are going to have great health care in our country. We're taking a little different route than we had hoped because getting Congress - they forgot what their pledges were.

KEITH: Still, he said he hoped this would prompt Congress to take bipartisan action to repeal and replace Obamacare.


TRUMP: We are really working very hard, and hopefully Congress will come through.

KEITH: It's not clear the president and Congress are even remotely on the same page about that. And that's not the only item the president wants Congress to act on. There's also the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. When Trump announced he would put a six-month expiration date on the program, he tweeted, quote, "Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA" - exclamation point. Trump talked about the issue earlier this week on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News.


TRUMP: And what I want is tremendous border regulation. I want the wall, and we're going to get other things. And we're going to see if we can work something out. Now, whether or not we do, I don't know. But it would be wonderful to solve the DACA problem.

KEITH: When he says we, he mostly means them. Congress will have to do all of the heavy lifting. None of this will be easy for a GOP-controlled Congress that is far from unanimity on any of these matters, says Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in Congress.

SARAH BINDER: Every time you buck some big issue onto their plate, you blow the place up. And this isn't a - this is - Congress is not a well-oiled machine, all right? And so disrupting the agenda and putting more things on their lap and putting issues that are really wedge issues within the Republican Party - it's almost mind-boggling to me that a president who doesn't see himself as part of the party in Congress puts them back in that situation.

KEITH: That agenda already included passing spending bills to keep the government open for business and a tax system overhaul which Trump insisted again today he wants done by the end of the year. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.