GOP senator floats changes to bipartisan ObamaCare deal

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills MORE (R-Wis.) is floating changes to a bipartisan deal to stabilize insurance markets that would pull the measure to the right.

Johnson said he’s discussed the changes with Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (R-Tenn.) — the Senate Health Committee chairman who brokered the deal with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayJudiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh Kavanaugh allegations set stage for Anita Hill sequel Time for action to improve government data analysis MORE (D-Wash.) — and Johnson contends they’re crucial to shoring up support for the bill in the House.

Through his spokesman, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Nancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? MORE (R-Wis.) indicated he opposed the Alexander-Murray proposal on Wednesday.

President Trump did the same, seemingly reversing course on his previous comments that the deal provided “a short-term solution so that we don’t have this very dangerous little period” for insurance companies.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Trump opposes a bipartisan deal to help stabilize ObamaCare in its current form.
 
Johnson said he is seeking to increase the duration of short-term health plans to a 364-day limit; expand health savings accounts; not enforce the employer mandate; and waive the individual insurance mandate penalty for 2017.  

It’s unclear if Alexander would support Johnson’s changes, and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) said he strongly prefers with sticking to the deal as is.

“They came up with what we think is a balanced and fair plan, and we ought to try to get that done,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday. A Democratic aide wrote in an email that there is strong Democratic support for the agreement. 

Johnson’s changes have the support of at least one high-ranking Republican: Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill MORE (Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee caucus. He said he likes Johnson’s ideas and supports continuing to work on the deal.

But it’s hard to see the provisions garnering Democratic support.

“[Alexander and I] are both interested in getting a result,” Johnson told reporters. “He's dealing with the hurdle of the Senate, I'm trying to, some extent, deal with the hurdle in the House and maybe both of our efforts can come together and show members of Congress that this is what we're going to need to do to really alleviate the increasing premiums, which are going to hurt Americans.”

Peter Sullivan contributed to this report.