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 AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Abortion rights group plans M campaign to flip the House Senate health committee to hold hearing on Trump drug pricing plan Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk 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 TrumpComey: Trump's 'Spygate' claims are made up Trump taps vocal anti-illegal immigration advocate for State Dept's top refugee job Seattle Seahawks player: Trump is 'an idiot' for saying protesting NFL players 'shouldn’t be in the country' MORE, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree House Dems say they'll oppose immigration floor vote over possible wall funding Dems after briefing: 'No evidence' spy placed in Trump campaign Senate approves new sexual harassment policy for Congress MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he backs Mueller probe after classified briefing Overnight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Senate Dems’ campaign chief ‘welcomes’ midterm support from Clintons 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 WaldenHillicon Valley: Experts worry North Korea will retaliate with hacks over summit | FBI works to disrupt Russian botnet | Trump officials look to quell anger over ZTE | Obama makes case for tighter regs on tech Dem calls for hearing on alleged wireless data disclosures 'Right to try' is an ill-considered bill 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 CollinsOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senate panel to consider ban on prescription drug 'gag clauses' Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn 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 MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump official won't OK lifetime limits on Medicaid Dems warn against changes to federal family planning program Overnight Health Care: Drug company under scrutiny for Michael Cohen payments | New Ebola outbreak | FDA addresses EpiPen shortage 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.