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 AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Republicans make U-turn on health care Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid 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 TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime 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 WaldenOvernight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers 'highly toxic' to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting 'forever chemicals' | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf House passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker 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 CollinsHillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout 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 MurrayTrump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban Democrats demand information from White House about fetal tissue research ban 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.