House, Senate closing in on ObamaCare backup, senator says

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Tuesday that House and Senate Republicans are closing in on a backup plan for ObamaCare subsidies that they will release should the Supreme Court cripple the healthcare law this month. 

{mosads}Barrasso, who is leading the main Senate planning effort, said the plan would include some kind of temporary assistance for the 6.4 million people who could lose health insurance subsidies because of the case of King v. Burwell

“We have worked on legislation in both the House and Senate,” Barrasso said at a Republican leadership press conference. “We’re coming very close together on that. We’ll bring that out after the Supreme Court makes a ruling, and it does protect those people who felt that they were following the law even though the president wasn’t actually following the law. So we do want to help protect them in this transition.”

A range of Republican plans have had conflicting answers on the question of temporary assistance. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) last month came out against a plan from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would temporarily keep ObamaCare subsidies flowing. A Wall Street Journal op-ed in March from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and two other chairmen heading the House’s main working group was silent on the question of temporary assistance. 

Barrasso told a small group of reporters after the press conference that for the main Republican plan, “language has been drafted and will be able to be fine-tuned based on the results of what the Supreme Court rules.”

Asked if that language includes temporary assistance, Barrasso said, “Temporary, yes.”

He would not reveal exactly what kind of temporary assistance the bill includes. Johnson has proposed extending the insurance subsidies that already exist, while others like Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) have instead proposed a system of new tax credits. 

“You’ll see that when we see what the Supreme Court finally says. If the Supreme Court rules the other way, this is not legislation we will introduce,” Barrasso said. 

Asked about Barrasso’s comments and if the House working group had agreed to some kind of temporary assistance, Brendan Buck, a Ryan spokesman, said, “We haven’t made any decisions yet, but are definitely in touch with our Senate counterparts.”

All of the Republican planning efforts could be moot if President Obama vetoes their plan, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week

“What I think he’ll probably do is veto anything we send him and put the pressure on the states to cave and turn established state exchanges in place of federal exchanges, thereby making them eligible for subsidies,” McConnell said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” 

Barrasso said Tuesday that Republicans would need to use a fast-track procedure called reconciliation that requires only 51 votes in the Senate, because Republicans do not have the usual 60.

“We’ll have to use reconciliation, 51 votes in the Senate,” Barrasso said. “I don’t expect any Democrats to support what we would bring forward, because the president will hold them hostage.”

Tags John Barrasso Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Ron Johnson
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