MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to start the program today trying to make sense out of this week's news from the nation's capital. President Trump made some significant headway in trying to reverse his predecessor's initiatives. The focus was on two big issues - the Iran nuclear deal and the Affordable Care Act. We called NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro to explain all this. Domenico, thanks so much for being with us once again.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: You're welcome, Michel.
MARTIN: So let's start with the Iran nuclear deal. The president declined to certify Iran as being in compliance. What does that mean?
MONTANARO: Well, I'll tell you first what it does not mean. It does not mean that the U.S. has ripped up the Iran deal, which is maybe the way President Trump wanted to spin it. Now what the president is doing by de-certifying the deal is signaling he doesn't like it. He thinks Iran isn't living up to its end of the bargain, even though international monitors say actually that's not true, that they are. Practically speaking, Trump's move though does start a 60-day clock for Republicans in Congress to re-impose sanctions. That would kill the deal, but here's the rub. Trump didn't actually ask them to do that, so there's no indication they will.
MARTIN: So does this mean this was - what? - theater, bluster?
MONTANARO: Well, what this basically boils all down to is Trump wants to look tough on Iran for his base and frankly for himself. I mean, you know, for years, he's been criticizing this deal. And it's probably no coincidence though that his top military advisers - some of the people he's closest to - have been advising against ripping up the deal. So there's a lot of bark here, not much bite. But the move could have real unintended consequences for the U.S. internationally. The decision is making allies nervous. And if hardliners in Iran believe that - that the U.S. isn't serious - it could empower them and weaken some of those moderates who have so far convinced the ayatollah to go along with this.
MARTIN: So let's turn to healthcare - and I want to mention that we are going to dig into this issue further after this conversation - but a number of congressional efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have failed in the last few months. The president's been warning that he would take matters into his own hands through executive actions if they didn't do what he said. He did that this week. Remind us exactly what the president did.
MONTANARO: All right, so he made two big moves. First, he signed an executive order that would allow groups of small businesses and associations to band together to buy health care. Health care advocates believe that could be a magnet for young and healthy people and would raise premiums for those who need care because it would be pulling them out of the exchanges. That would undermine those exchanges. Second, and more impactfully (ph) even than that, was that Trump said his administration was no longer going to make payments for subsidies that help people buy insurance - helped make them more affordable. And we're talking about people with families of four who make up to $97,000 a year. So that's a lot of people.
You know, without them, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that premiums would spike 20 percent next year, even more after that and wind up costing the government some $200 billion over the next decade. Trump looks like he's trying to make Democrats cry uncle here, but Democrats called what he's doing spiteful, sabotage. They don't look ready to cow to Trump. And it sets up a really potentially messy fight in mid-December. That's when the debt ceiling needs to be raised. The government needs to be funded and Republicans can't get the votes most likely without Democrats.
MARTIN: So do you see - do you see Congress acting here?
MONTANARO: It's going to take like-minded leaders from both parties who don't want to see the subsidies ended and make them law because, right now, they're dealing with someone in the White House who doesn't appear to care about the fallout of his decisions.
MARTIN: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thank you.
MONTANARO: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.