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GOP shuts down Trump health push

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general Trump to attend private RNC donor retreat The Patriot Party already exists — it's the Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) shut the door Tuesday on any possibility that the Senate would move legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act before the 2020 election.

McConnell rejected a request from President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident MORE last week that Republican lawmakers prepare a comprehensive package, ending the debate and attempting to protect GOP senators up for reelection next year.

McConnell delivered the message to Trump in a phone conversation Monday afternoon.

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“We had a good conversation yesterday afternoon, and I pointed out to him the Senate Republicans’ view on dealing with comprehensive health care reform with a Democratic House of Representatives,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

“I made clear to him that we were not going to be doing that in the Senate,” McConnell said. “He did say, as he later tweeted, that he accepted that and he would be developing a plan that he would take to the American people during the 2020 campaign.”

McConnell has privately told GOP colleagues that he would prefer to play offense by attacking Democrats’ ambitious “Medicare for all” proposals, which he says would gut the program, instead of playing defense on whatever comprehensive plan GOP lawmakers might come up with.

After speaking to McConnell, Trump tweeted Monday night that he now expects Republicans to take up comprehensive health care reform in 2021, when he predicts the GOP will control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

Trump triggered a crisis for Republicans just a week ago when, fresh off a victory from the end of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE’s investigation, the Justice Department filed legal papers calling for a court to strike down all of ObamaCare.

The decision immediately gave Democrats an election-year talking point that changed the subject from Mueller and caught Republicans flat-footed, putting them on defense. Democrats had seen GOP attacks on ObamaCare as instrumental to their winning the House majority last fall.

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Senate Republicans told The Hill last week that they were privately rooting for the courts to uphold the law and spare them from the political chaos that would ensue if it were struck down. 

Instead, Senate Republicans said Tuesday that they will focus on smaller-scale legislation to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and promote association health plans, under which small businesses join together to provide more affordable health plans to employees. 

Both parties face challenges on health care, with some Democrats worried that a push by liberals for a single-payer Medicare for all proposal could harm their party in next year’s elections.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsPelosi's '9/11-type' commission to investigate Capitol riot could prove dangerous for Democrats Key players to watch in minimum wage fight Sunday shows - Trump acquittal in second impeachment trial reverberates MORE (Del.), a moderate Democrat, said Tuesday that Medicare for All, a bill that was sponsored in the last Congress by five of the six Democratic senators running for president, poses serious policy problems.

“A bill that would compel more than 150 million Americans to give up their current health insurance, I think, is more bold than it is viable. I think at this point we have the fight of our lives to defend the Affordable Care Act’s protection against pre-existing condition discrimination,” he said.

Two Democrats, Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats in standoff over minimum wage Democrats plan crackdown on rising drug costs Overnight Health Care: Biden officials announce funding to track virus variants | Senate Dems unveil public option proposal | White House: Teacher vaccinations not required for schools to reopen MORE (Va.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocrats plan crackdown on rising drug costs Overnight Health Care: Biden officials announce funding to track virus variants | Senate Dems unveil public option proposal | White House: Teacher vaccinations not required for schools to reopen Senate Democrats unveil health care proposal with public option MORE (Colo.), on Tuesday unveiled their Medicare X legislation, modeled on the public insurance option Democrats debated in 2009 before passing the Affordable Care Act. Bennet is weighing running for president on a more centrist track,

They say it’s more realistic than Medicare for all, which could kick millions of Americans off their employer-sponsored health plans and cost tens of trillions of dollars. 

“Medicare X is directly responsive to the need to have competition in the market, to have a lower cost and to begin to build toward universal coverage in this country, which is what we need,” Bennet said, adding it has “a much greater chance of succeeding that some other proposals.” 

It would create a government-sponsored insurance option and use Medicare’s network of doctors and providers to guarantee health benefits such as maternity care and mental health services and ensure access to affordable prescription drugs. 

The bill’s original co-sponsors include Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharFive big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings Top cops deflect blame over Capitol attack Ex-Capitol Police chief did not get FBI report warning of violence on Jan. 6 MORE (Minn.), the only Senate Democrat who has both formally announced a presidential run and declined to sponsor Medicare for All legislation last year. Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisCollins: Biden's .9T coronavirus package won't get any Senate GOP votes House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill Biden's immigration bill could wreck his majority, but Democrats have opportunity to do the right thing MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory BookerMenendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line Garland commits to combatting systemic racism MORE (D-N.J.) who co-sponsored Medicare for All legislation in the last Congress, also co-sponsored Kaine’s and Bennet’s Medicare X plan.

Much of the discussion before the Trump administration’s move on ObamaCare was focused on the divisions within the Democratic Party over Medicare for all.

But that changed instantly with the Justice Department shifting its position in the ongoing ObamaCare case, taking the spotlight off Democrats.

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By ending that debate, McConnell hopes the narrative on health care will go back to Democrats.

Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP campaign chief talks strategy with Trump Graham, Trump huddle to talk GOP's 2022 strategy Top firms slash donations to candidates by 90 percent: analysis MORE (S.D.) said Trump’s plan to have the courts strike down all of ObamaCare and then have Congress replace it with a new benefit system was simply unrealistic. 

“The best-laid plans and best of intentions with regard to an overhaul of the health care system in this country run into the wall of reality that it’s going to be very hard to get a Democrat House and a Republican Senate to agree on something,” he said.  
Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday afternoon that McConnell made the right move to steer Trump away from comprehensive health care reform.

“I agree that’s the right course. What the Senate should be working on is what we’re working on, which is working to reduce health care costs in a bipartisan way this year,” he said, pointing to proposals related to drug costs, surprise medical billing and transparency.