Trump urges Dem senator to revive bipartisan ObamaCare talks

President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE encouraged Democratic Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayFinding a path forward to end surprise medical billing Trump'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 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 AlexanderFinding a path forward to end surprise medical billing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Republicans make U-turn on health care 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.

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.

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.