Bipartisan health group efforts suddenly springing up

Greg Nash

Lawmakers are ramping up bipartisan talks on the next steps for healthcare legislation after the GOP ObamaCare repeal effort hit a wall.

Announcements of across-the-aisle negotiations sprung up on Friday, less than a day after Senate Republicans failed to pass their “skinny” repeal of ObamaCare.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is up for reelection in 2018, said he and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) “are now working together” with a bipartisan group of senators after discussing the issue previously.

“This group of senators met for dinner the other night to start sharing our ideas and discussing a path forward. While we still have a long way to go, we are starting to work together to try to get this done in a bipartisan way,” Nelson said on Friday.


Separately, a member of the bipartisan House “Problem Solvers” caucus said on Friday that the group is discussing how to stabilize the insurance market.

Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.) said that the Senate’s inability to pass legislation “underscores the need for incremental, bipartisan reforms.”

“I am working as part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to initiate reforms which can fix problems with the individual insurance market,” he said.

Lawmakers have been quietly looking for months for a bipartisan route on healthcare even as GOP leaders kept pushing their plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Collins, who has become a go-to Republican for senators in both parties, was reportedly spotted at a bipartisan healthcare dinner that also included Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Collins and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) also convened a bipartisan meeting in May. 

Collins reiterated her push for bipartisanship on Friday, warning Republicans against making “the same mistake” as Democrats by passing a controversial healthcare bill along party lines.

“Rather than engage in partisan exercises, Republicans and Democrats should work together to address these very serious problems,” said Collins, who was one of three GOP senators to oppose “skinny” repeal early Friday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put the onus on Democrats to come up with ideas during an emotional floor speech after the unsuccessful vote, but appeared skeptical they could gain traction with most of his caucus.

Democrats warned that they wouldn’t be able to work with Republicans on a healthcare bill until GOP leadership took ObamaCare repeal off the table.

But Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) pointed to Collins earlier this week, predicting that they and roughly a dozen of their colleague would have to get together and come up with a healthcare bill.

“There’s going to be some reasonable people that find a reasonable pathway forward,” the red-state Democrat, who is up for reelection in 2018, said.

President Trump reiterated on Friday that lawmakers should “let ObamaCare implode.”

Trump has previously threatened to withhold subsidies the government pays to insurance companies so they can lower deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket costs for low-income patients.

But Cassidy, while calling Trump the “wildcard,” said he hoped senators would be able to negotiate going forward, but noted they hadn’t had much success so far.

“I hope so. I have tried in the past as has Susan to have a dialogue. It hasn’t worked. Maybe this had to happen to begin to have a conversation,” he said.

Tags Bill Nelson Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell Susan Collins
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