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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 AlexanderThe spectre of pension failures haunts this election Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Senate Health Committee chair asks Cuomo, Newsom to 'stop second guessing' FDA on vaccine efficacy 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 TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Battle for Senate 'a 50-50 proposition' 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem What a Biden administration should look like 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 WaldenEnsuring more Americans have access to 5G technology Race heats up for top GOP post on powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight 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 CollinsGideon holds 3-point lead over Collins in new poll The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - One week out, where the Trump, Biden race stands The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Justice Barrett joins court; one week until Election Day 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 MurrayWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Plaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas 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.