President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited Columbus on Friday for official business, sparking controversy about taxpayer dollars used to fund his trip in the very city that is suing the Trump administration.
Trump initially planned a political trip to Columbus to speak at the annual state dinner of the Ohio Republican Party, as well as a fundraiser for Jim Renacci, a Republican congressman from Wadsworth who is challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown. In a change of events, the Trump administration penciled in a visit to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive and Intermediate Care Unit.
Trump’s visit to Nationwide made his trip official business, which allowed the administration to defray some costs of the trip by using taxpayer money.
An official trip by the president, meaning a trip that falls within the duties of the office, are covered by taxpayers. However, a political trip, one where the president takes part in partisan activities, is not covered by taxpayers.
This action is not unusual for presidents. The Reagan administration originally established the rules for political and official trips. Since then, the rules have been used by many presidents to lessen the expenses of travel and get more business done. Former President Barack Obama came under scrutiny for the issue while campaigning for his second term in office in 2012.
Critics of Trump were not only mad about the financial issue of Trump’s visit to Nationwide Hospital prenatal intensive care unit, but also what they perceive as the hypocrisy of the move. City Attorney Zach Klein told The Columbus Dispatch Trump visiting a hospital that saves lives with help from the Affordable Care Act is “outrageous.”
The outrage lies within the Trump administration’s actions against the Affordable Care Act, the Obama-era program that provides families and children with affordable health care.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital in particular is primarily used to treat babies who are born with an opioid addiction, an urgent problem Ohio is battling.
“Right now in Ohio, 200,000 people are getting opioid treatment because they have insurance under the Affordable Care Act,” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a speech to the City Club of Cleveland in April.
In 2014, Ohio expanded Medicaid under Obamacare due to Gov. John Kasich’s actions in late 2013.
“It’s pretty disturbing when elected officials who get really good health care paid for by taxpayers, whether it’s a congressman or a president, they have spent most of their time in office trying to take health care away from families,” Sen. Brown said in an interview with WCMH-TV (Channel 4). “I guess I look forward to hearing the president explain why he wants to cancel out Gov. Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid.”