Senate GOP pushes off ObamaCare bills until January

Senate Republicans are punting two ObamaCare bills into next year as lawmakers scramble to avoid a government shutdown. 

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGrassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal Collins 'appalled' by Trump tweet about Kavanaugh accuser Poll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it MORE (Maine) and 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.) said they have asked 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.) to not bring the bills up this week. 

“Rather than considering a broad year-end funding agreement as we expected, it has become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension to prevent a government shutdown and to continue a few essential programs. For this reason, we have asked Senator McConnell not to offer this week our legislation," they said in a joint statement. 

Collins and Alexander said the ObamaCare legislation could wait until the Senate considers a slate of must-pass bills, including a full-year funding deal, in January. 

"Instead, we will offer it after the first of the year when the Senate will consider the omnibus spending bill, the Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization, funding for Community Health Centers, and other legislation that was to have been enacted this week," they said. 

Their comments come after Senate Republicans said they were considering whether to drop their plan to attach the health-care bills to a continuing resolution (CR) needed to avert a government shutdown.

"I support what they're trying to do but I think the CR is a little up in the air because we don't know what the House is going to be able to pass," Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford MORE (R-Texas) told reporters on Wednesday.

Cornyn added that if the two bills don't end up in this week's stopgap spending bill, needed to prevent a government shutdown starting at midnight Friday, they could be attached to the full-year funding bill that is expected to come up for a vote in January. 

"One possibility is we would put it on the CR. The other possibility is it would be part of the omnibus on Jan. 19," he said, while stressing Senate Republicans are deferring to Alexander and Collins.

Collins told reporters late last month that she had gotten a promise from McConnell to include the two bills in a "must-pass bill" this year, which she said was necessary after GOP leadership agreed to repeal ObamaCare's individual mandate in the tax bill.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said earlier this month that repealing the individual mandate would result in an additional 13 million people becoming uninsured by 2027.

Despite widespread skepticism that the health-care bills would be able to pass the House, Collins remained confident that the two bills, one by Alexander and 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 (D-Wash.) and the second by Collins and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonPolitical shenanigans mask true problems in Puerto Rico The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms MORE (D-Fla.), would be included in the legislation this year.

"The vice president and I had a discussion yesterday that reinforced that agreement that the bills will be considered before the end of the year," Collins told reporters late last week, referring to a call with Vice President Pence.

She said at the time that the Dec. 22 continuing resolution was the "likely" vehicle for the two pieces of legislation.

Collins and Alexander added on Thursday that McConnell remained committed to trying to move the two bills this year, but it became clear they wouldn't pass. 

“Also, in order to succeed, our legislation must be bipartisan, and the Senate Democratic leader said on Tuesday that Democrats would not support it in the current environment even though as recently as October he said that all Democrats would," they said. 

Democrats had warned they wouldn't support the Alexander-Murray bill if it was tied to the tax bill's repeal of the individual mandate. 

And the idea of including the two bills — one ensuring cost sharing reduction payments to insurers and the second providing funding for "reinsurance" programs aimed at bringing down premiums — generated a backlash among House conservatives.

Republicans said on Tuesday that the two ObamaCare measures had to include the Hyde Amendment language prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn 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 Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil MORE (R-Calif.) separately told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he didn't expect the House to vote on the Alexander-Murray bill this year. 

Republicans are racing to avoid a shutdown on Friday at midnight.

House Republicans had been expected to force a vote on a package linking a full year of defense to a short-term fix for the rest of the government. That plan, however, appeared to fall apart late Tuesday. Now it appears Republicans will instead pass a "clean" continuing resolution that funds the government into January. 

Collins noted that she had spoken to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE (R-Wis.) as of Wednesday and he told her that the House "remains committed to passing legislation to provide for high-risk pools and other reinsurance mechanisms similar to the bipartisan legislation I have introduced." 

"He pointed out that by waiting until early next year, we will be able to use a new CBO baseline that will result in more funding being available for reinsurance programs that have been proven effective in lowering premiums while protecting people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis," she said.