GOP lawmakers blast Dems for opposing ObamaCare fix

GOP lawmakers blast Dems for opposing ObamaCare fix
© Greg Nash

Republicans denounced Democrats on Wednesday for opposing a bill aimed at lowering ObamaCare premiums, saying Democrats walked away from a deal so they could blame the GOP for premium increases ahead of the midterm elections.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGovernor's race grabs spotlight in Tennessee primaries A single courageous senator can derail the Trump administration GOP worries trade wars will last as Trump engages in temporary tiffs MORE (R-Tenn.), a leader of the push for the bill to stabilize ObamaCare markets, said Democrats were blocking the measure from must-pass government funding legislation this week solely because of abortion-related objections, despite support for the measure from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanKrystal Ball: GOP tax cut is 'opiate of the massively privileged' Top GOP lawmaker: Tax cuts will lower projected deficit GOP super PAC seizes on Ellison abuse allegations in ads targeting Dems MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell15 senators miss votes despite McConnell's criticism of absentees Overnight Health Care: Azar defends approach on drug rebates | Trump presses Senate to act quickly on opioid crisis | Kentucky governor's Medicaid lawsuit tossed Dem senator introduces proposal to rein in Trump on security clearances MORE (R-Ky.).

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"It’s being blocked in the omnibus bill for one reason and one reason alone, and that is that Democrats refuse to apply the Hyde [Amendment] compromise on abortion funding that has been in every appropriations bill since 1976," Alexander said at a press conference alongside other GOP advocates of the bill.

The measure has been left out of a government funding bill this week because of the abortion dispute, taking off the table perhaps the last chance to enact the measure.

It is possible the Senate could still hold a symbolic vote on the measure to put Democrats on record in opposition.

Republicans say the Hyde Amendment language preventing funding of abortion services must be applied to the new ObamaCare funding, which is aimed at lowering ObamaCare premiums. They argue the language is a standard restriction used for decades.

Democrats say that applying the Hyde Amendment is a dealbreaker, noting it would prevent federal funds from going to any insurer that offered abortion coverage. They also criticized Republicans for including other items like a provision they said would cement a Trump administration move to allow skimpier, "junk" insurance plans to be sold.

Republicans argued Wednesday that Democrats were using the abortion language objection as an excuse to oppose the bill so that they can blame Republicans for premium increases ahead of November's midterm elections.

"It makes you think that maybe they want the political argument in the fall," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Health Care: Azar defends approach on drug rebates | Trump presses Senate to act quickly on opioid crisis | Kentucky governor's Medicaid lawsuit tossed Three scenarios for how leadership races could play out in the House House committee considering subpoena for Twitter CEO: report MORE (R-Ore.).

Republicans said it was remarkable that Democrats are now in the position of blocking a bill aimed at shoring up the health-care markets from President Obama's signature legislation.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins, seen as possible swing vote, set to meet with Kavanaugh White House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (R-Maine) said she "never would have envisioned that we would have had opposition from Democratic members over this non-issue."

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayGOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Senate Dems press Sessions for records on racial discrimination complaints Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press MORE (Wash.), the lead Democrat in the negotiations, countered that it was GOP leaders who walked away from negotiations and insisted on the abortion restrictions.

"It’s unfortunate that Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan have time and time again rejected bipartisan work on health care in favor of partisan health care politics, and chosen politically-driven show votes over getting a result for families," Murray said in a statement.

The bill would provide two kinds of payments aimed at lowering premiums: cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), which reimburse insurers for discounts to low-income enrollees, and reinsurance, which covers the cost of claims from some especially sick enrollees.

Aside from the abortion dispute, Democrats also soured on one of those payments, the CSRs, which they previously supported. Because of a quirk in the structure of the law, funding those payments actually would have reduced subsidies for many people that help them afford insurance, thereby raising many people’s costs.