Trump urges Dem senator to revive bipartisan ObamaCare talks

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE encouraged Democratic Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills Key House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills MORE (Wash.) to resume efforts to find a bipartisan deal to shore up ObamaCare at a White House meeting on Tuesday.

Trump said that he did not understand why the bipartisan proposal that Murray worked on in 2017 and 2018 with Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills Life after Yucca Mountain: The time has come to reset US nuclear waste policy MORE (R-Tenn.) had been dropped, according to a Democratic source.

Murray replied that she had been told the White House would veto the measure. Trump replied that he never said that and encouraged Murray and Alexander to resume their efforts, a Democratic source said.

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Any bipartisan deal to shore up ObamaCare would be extremely difficult to pass given the intense partisan divide over the health law. In 2017 and 2018, many Republicans derided the proposal as a "bailout" of the Affordable Care Act.

Trump was also inconsistent in his support, sometimes praising the proposal and sometimes attacking it.

Still, Murray's office said she welcomed the opportunity to try again for a bipartisan ObamaCare deal in a statement after the meeting.

"Senator Murray has consistently said she is still at the table ready to work with anyone on either side of the aisle to lower families’ health care costs, improve quality of care, and roll back the President’s sabotage as the original Alexander-Murray agreement was intended to do—so she welcomed President Trump’s renewed interest and the possibility of working with Republican leaders and the House on bipartisan steps to help make health care more affordable," a Murray aide said.

Another obstacle is that Alexander has recently said he is moving on from trying to strike a deal on the polarizing health care law and instead is focusing more broadly on lowering health care costs in general.

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The original deal fell apart in early 2018 over the issue of restrictions on funds being used for abortion, an intensely divisive issue that would be hard to bridge.

Alexander said in a statement after the meeting on Tuesday that he is willing to reopen discussions if Democrats "modify" their position on the abortion funding restrictions, known as the Hyde Amendment, a request that will be very hard for Democrats to accept. 

“I was extremely disappointed our legislation didn't become law," Alexander said. "If Democrats are willing to modify their position on the Hyde Amendment and renew their interest in Alexander-Murray, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it.”

Democrats would also push for different priorities in a bipartisan deal this year. For example, many Democrats view a centerpiece of the original Alexander-Murray bill, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), as no longer necessary, and in fact harmful, given how the market has shifted in the time since Trump canceled those payments in 2017. 

This story was updated at 5:55 p.m.