Healthcare

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

Greg Nash

Sen. Lamar Alexander (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 Murray (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 McConnell (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 Collins (R-Maine) that he would support passage of Alexander-Murray, and another bipartisan ObamaCare bill from Collins and Sen. Bill Nelson (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 Trump’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.” 

Tags Alexander-Murray bill Bill Nelson Continuing resolution CR Donald Trump Lamar Alexander Mitch McConnell ObamaCare Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Patty Murray Susan Collins

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