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 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 (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 MurrayOvernight Health Care: HHS diverts funds to pay for detaining migrant children | Health officials defend transfers | Lawmakers consider easing drug company costs in opioids deal Trump health official defends funding shifts to pay for detained migrant children Judiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh 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 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 (N.Y.) said he also has had no talks with the White House on the bill.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP making counteroffer to Kavanaugh accuser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins 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 HatchJudiciary Dems say GOP treating Kavanaugh accuser worse than Anita Hill Dem vows to probe 'why the FBI stood down' on Kavanaugh Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh MORE (R-Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyHouse GOP bill a mixed bag for retirement savers China imposes new tariffs on billion of US goods: report Trump announces tariffs on 0B in Chinese goods 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.”