McCain, Murkowski signal support for deal on ObamaCare payments

Greg Nash
Two holdouts on the GOP effort to repeal ObamaCare are throwing their support behind a bipartisan deal to extend payments to insurers after President Trump moved to nix them.
Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) on Tuesday both praised the agreement to provide two years of the cost-sharing reduction payments.
“While this deal certainly doesn’t solve all the problems caused by Obamacare, it shows that good faith, bipartisan negotiations can achieve consensus on lasting reform. … I look forward to voting in support of this bill,” McCain said in a statement.
Murkowski in a separate statement called the proposal a “short-term deal,” saying it was “an important step as we work towards long-term solutions.”
In exchange for the cost-sharing reduction payments, the agreement from Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — the top members on the Senate Health Committee — would give states more flexibility to change ObamaCare’s rules by getting a waiver.
The administration said last week that it was nixing the payments because it “cannot lawfully” make them to insurers since they weren’t appropriated under the Affordable Care Act.
It’s not clear if the Alexander-Murray deal can get the 60 votes needed in the Senate, much less win over the more conservative House GOP caucus.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday directed questions about the agreement to Alexander and Murray.
“We haven’t had a chance to think about the way forward yet,” McConnell told reporters during a press conference held minutes after the agreement was announced.
Alexander will need to win over a significant number of his GOP colleagues, some of whom have been skeptical of supporting a bill that critics view as propping up ObamaCare.
The support from McCain and Murkowski marks a shift from the GOP effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Murkowski and McCain both voted against the scaled-down ObamaCare repeal plan in July, while McCain also came out against a proposal last month from GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.) to turn ObamaCare’s insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion into a block grant.
McCain during his first floor speech after being diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year urged his colleagues to return to “regular order” and include input from both parties.
He added on Tuesday that he hopes the agreement from Alexander and Murray is “a sign of increased bipartisanship moving forward.” 
Tags Bill Cassidy CSR John McCain Lamar Alexander Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell ObamaCare repeal Patty Murray

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