Dems: No talks with Trump on ObamaCare fix

Dems: No talks with Trump on ObamaCare fix
© Greg Nash

Democrats say they have not had any negotiations with the White House about its demands for changes to a bipartisan ObamaCare fix, indicating a murky future for the legislation aimed a shoring up insurance markets.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns MORE (Tenn.), the lead Republican sponsor of the bill, said last week that he wanted the White House to negotiate with Democrats on the administration's proposed changes. Democrats at the time countered by pressuring GOP leaders to bring the bill up for a vote as it is.

A week later, Democrats are showing no interest in negotiating to win President Trump’s support, despite GOP leaders offering no sign they will bring the bill up as it is.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare MORE (Wash.), the lead Democratic sponsor, said on Tuesday that she had not had any talks with the White House about the bill. “Lamar’s stayed in touch with them,” she said.

When asked about Alexander’s desire that she negotiate with the White House, Murray laughed and said, “I negotiated with Lamar.”

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The Alexander-Murray bill, aimed at stabilizing markets, funds key payments to insurers for two years in exchange for more flexibility for states to change ObamaCare rules. Many conservatives view it, and the payments in general, as a “bailout” of insurers.

Murray said Republicans should bring the bill up for a vote as it is.

A spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (N.Y.) said he also has had no talks with the White House on the bill.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatagonia says to shut stores for a few hours during Global Climate Strike Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes On The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills MORE (R-Ky.), however, has said that he only wants to bring the bill up for a vote once it has Trump’s support.

The bill thus appears to be at a standstill. Many observers think its only real chance is to be included in a larger deal on spending in December.  

To help win Trump's support, the White House wants changes that Democrats reject, including lifting the individual mandate for one year. The administration also wants to temporarily lift the mandate for employers to provide coverage and expand skimpier, cheaper short-term insurance plans.

Asked if he is concerned that the White House has not negotiated with Democrats, Alexander said Tuesday, “The ball's in their court. They've got some other things to do but I think between now and December I would expect there to be a result.”

Alexander and Murray are working to line up more co-sponsors, and pointing to a Congressional Budget Office analysis finding their bill would save $3.8 billion over 10 years.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLobbying groups ask Congress for help on Trump tariffs Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea Republicans' rendezvous with reality — their plan is to cut Social Security MORE (R-Texas) have a competing bill that would fund the payments, known as cost-sharing reductions, but also make more conservative changes, similar to the White House requests, including temporarily lifting the individual mandate.   

Alexander argued he is making progress, while acknowledging his bill could have to change.

“It's encouraging to see more and more Republicans recognizing that cost sharing is an essential part of the next two years, then the only question is what goes along with it?” Alexander said. “And that has to be settled.”