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GOP lawmakers blast Dems for opposing ObamaCare fix

GOP lawmakers blast Dems for opposing ObamaCare fix
© Greg Nash

Republicans denounced Democrats on Wednesday for opposing a bill aimed at lowering ObamaCare premiums, saying Democrats walked away from a deal so they could blame the GOP for premium increases ahead of the midterm elections.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.), a leader of the push for the bill to stabilize ObamaCare markets, said Democrats were blocking the measure from must-pass government funding legislation this week solely because of abortion-related objections, despite support for the measure from President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP GOP group makes late play in Iowa seat once seen as lost Adelsons donated M in September to help GOP in midterms MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh Saudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' MORE (R-Ky.).

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"It’s being blocked in the omnibus bill for one reason and one reason alone, and that is that Democrats refuse to apply the Hyde [Amendment] compromise on abortion funding that has been in every appropriations bill since 1976," Alexander said at a press conference alongside other GOP advocates of the bill.

The measure has been left out of a government funding bill this week because of the abortion dispute, taking off the table perhaps the last chance to enact the measure.

It is possible the Senate could still hold a symbolic vote on the measure to put Democrats on record in opposition.

Republicans say the Hyde Amendment language preventing funding of abortion services must be applied to the new ObamaCare funding, which is aimed at lowering ObamaCare premiums. They argue the language is a standard restriction used for decades.

Democrats say that applying the Hyde Amendment is a dealbreaker, noting it would prevent federal funds from going to any insurer that offered abortion coverage. They also criticized Republicans for including other items like a provision they said would cement a Trump administration move to allow skimpier, "junk" insurance plans to be sold.

Republicans argued Wednesday that Democrats were using the abortion language objection as an excuse to oppose the bill so that they can blame Republicans for premium increases ahead of November's midterm elections.

"It makes you think that maybe they want the political argument in the fall," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenVulnerable Republicans throw ‘Hail Mary’ on pre-existing conditions GOP senator wants Apple, Amazon to give briefing on reported Super Micro hack Overnight Health Care: Bill banning 'gag clauses' on drugs heads to Trump's desk | Romney opposes Utah Medicaid expansion | GOP candidate under fire over ad on pre-existing conditions MORE (R-Ore.).

Republicans said it was remarkable that Democrats are now in the position of blocking a bill aimed at shoring up the health-care markets from President Obama's signature legislation.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked 'Suspicious letter' mailed to Maine home of Susan Collins MORE (R-Maine) said she "never would have envisioned that we would have had opposition from Democratic members over this non-issue."

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers MORE (Wash.), the lead Democrat in the negotiations, countered that it was GOP leaders who walked away from negotiations and insisted on the abortion restrictions.

"It’s unfortunate that Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan have time and time again rejected bipartisan work on health care in favor of partisan health care politics, and chosen politically-driven show votes over getting a result for families," Murray said in a statement.

The bill would provide two kinds of payments aimed at lowering premiums: cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), which reimburse insurers for discounts to low-income enrollees, and reinsurance, which covers the cost of claims from some especially sick enrollees.

Aside from the abortion dispute, Democrats also soured on one of those payments, the CSRs, which they previously supported. Because of a quirk in the structure of the law, funding those payments actually would have reduced subsidies for many people that help them afford insurance, thereby raising many people’s costs.