Bipartisan health plan faces new challenge from conservatives

Bipartisan health plan faces new challenge from conservatives
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Republicans are once again at odds over health care — this time on how to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets.  

A bipartisan agreement to shore up the law was rejected Tuesday by two powerful Republican committee chairmen, who introduced an alternative bill that includes the top priorities of conservatives and the White House.

The new bill, introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDon't place all your hopes — or fears — on a new Supreme Court justice The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting On The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment MORE (R-Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyMeet the woman who is Trump's new emissary to Capitol Hill On The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment Brady at White House meeting: House to vote on more tax cuts in September MORE (R-Texas), would fund ObamaCare insurer subsidies that Democrats and some Republicans have been asking for. In that respect, it’s similar to the deal that Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderBipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Sens introduce bipartisan bill matching Zinke proposed maintenance backlog fix Supreme Court vacancy throws Senate battle into chaos MORE (R-Tenn.) negotiated with Democrats.  

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But their legislation would also temporarily repeal ObamaCare’s individual and employer mandates, something that was not part of the deal and that Democrats are unlikely to accept.

Hatch and Brady’s proposal highlights the divisions Republicans face within their party over how to deal with ObamaCare following Congress’s multiple failed attempts to repeal the law.

“I think it proves we should be focused on tax reform right now, because obviously we haven’t gotten our act together on health care,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Helsinki summit becomes new flashpoint for GOP anger Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash MORE (Utah), the Senate’s No. 3 Republican. 

The bipartisan deal, which Alexander negotiated with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families MORE (D-Wash.), the Health Committee's ranking member, already faced an uncertain future because it hasn’t yet been endorsed by President Trump or House and Senate leadership. 

Now critics of the Alexander-Murray deal have a new, more conservative bill to embrace that would temporarily get rid of one of ObamaCare’s most unpopular provisions: the mandates.

Many Republicans, including Trump, have been wary about the Alexander-Murray proposal because they say it funds insurer “bailouts” without making substantial changes to ObamaCare.

“Their answer is just more spending for another two years. It doesn’t solve the problems. I’d like to solve the problems,” Hatch told reporters last week. 

The White House has pushed for more conservative changes to the proposal, many of which are included in Hatch’s plan.

Alexander on Tuesday said he “welcomed” additional proposals and still thinks something can pass by the end of the year. 

“We’ve gone from a position where everyone was saying we can’t do cost sharing to responsible voices like Sen. Hatch and Chairman Brady saying we should,” he said. 

“I think the White House has several proposals — they have our bipartisan proposal, suggestions from Sen. Hatch and Congressman Brady. It suggests to me that this is something that might very well happen by the end of the year.”

Some conservative members of the House and Senate say the latest proposal still doesn’t go far enough for them to be willing to fund the insurer subsidies, known as cost-sharing reduction payments. 

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonJuan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins GOP senator: Harley-Davidson is right to move some production overseas GOP senator: Trump’s policies doing 'permanent damage' MORE (R-Wis.), who has been working with House conservatives on a proposal to fund the ObamaCare subsidies, says it needs to go further in order to pass the lower chamber. 

“It’s not as extensive as what I’m trying to do,” Johnson said. 

“I think we need to clear that higher hurdle, which is conservatives in the House.”

And so far, Hatch and Brady’s plan hasn’t received a warm reception from House conservatives.

“If they’ve got a proposal, that’s great. We’ll take a look at it,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

“However, instead of being concerned so much about the insurance companies and their subsidies, it seems to me that members of the Senate who couldn’t get any bill passed over there should be more focused on families.”

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) seemed more open to the new bill but didn’t fully embrace it. 

“The parameters that Hatch put out is certainly a step in the right direction from where we started with Alexander-Murray,” he said.

Some Republicans may never vote for a bill that would fund the subsidies without repealing ObamaCare. 

“We should not be funding CSRs,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the former chairman of the Freedom Caucus.

“What we should be doing is… what we told the American people we were going to do — pass [repeal] legislation. Not some bailout for insurance companies.”