GOP senator says must-pass funding bill to include ObamaCare fix

GOP senator says must-pass funding bill to include ObamaCare fix
© Greg Nash

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (R-Tenn.) says that his bipartisan ObamaCare insurer fix will be added to a government funding bill this week, potentially setting up a showdown with House conservatives who oppose the measure.

Alexander told local reporters on Friday that the bill aimed at stabilizing insurer markets — from him and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign Democratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students Lawmakers with first-hand experience using food stamps call on Trump not to cut program MORE (D-Wash.) — would be added to a stop-gap government funding bill that must pass before this Friday's funding deadline, according to a pledge from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Ky.). 

"Senator McConnell has pledged to put Alexander-Murray on the spending bill that will also pass next week," Alexander told reporters Friday, according to audio posted by Nashville Public Radio.

McConnell previously pledged to Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsToward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (R-Maine) that he would support passage of Alexander-Murray, and another bipartisan ObamaCare bill from Collins and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world Bottom Line MORE (D-Fla.), before the end of the year, in exchange for her vote on the GOP tax-reform legislation. 

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That previous commitment did not specify that the measure would be attached to the government funding, bill, though, as Alexander now says. 

Attaching the measures to the government funding bill sets up a possible showdown with House conservatives, who oppose the ObamaCare measures as propping up the health-care law.

Asked about Alexander's comments, a McConnell spokesman said "the Leader made a firm commitment to Chairman Alexander for action on this by the end of the year." The spokesman did not confirm that this week's spending bill would be the legislative vehicle, though. 

Alexander pointed to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE's previous announcement of support for the bipartisan bills, but said only that he hopes the House will pass them, too. 

"We’re very hopeful that the House will agree to it since most House members already voted for similar provisions in their repeal and replace legislation earlier this year," Alexander said. 

The two bipartisan bills would provide funding aimed at bringing down ObamaCare premiums, which Alexander argues would make up for the premium rise from repealing the individual mandate in the tax bill this week.

Senate Democrats, though, are raising the prospect that they could vote against a government funding bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), that includes the Alexander-Murray bill, arguing that it is not enough to make up for the damage of repealing the ObamaCare mandate in the tax bill.

"We have to judge a whole package but I don’t see a CR loaded up with health provisions passing both chambers," said a Senate Democratic aide. 

Alexander appeared confident that his measure would get through the Senate on the spending bill this week. 

"The tax bill will include the repeal of the individual mandate; that will push rates up slightly," Alexander said. "Later that week we’ll pass the spending bill which includes Alexander-Murray; that’s the bipartisan bills that will push rates down more in 2019."