Chris Murphy may oppose bipartisan health bill unless it addresses ObamaCare 'sabotage'

Chris Murphy may oppose bipartisan health bill unless it addresses ObamaCare 'sabotage'
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyTrump instructed administration to withhold military aid for Ukraine days before call with president: report Murphy blasts GOP on whistleblower response: 'We're watching this country turn into a banana republic' Let's get real: Democrats were first to enlist Ukraine in US elections MORE (D-Conn.) said Wednesday he may vote against a bipartisan measure to lower health care costs next week unless it addresses a GOP “sabotage” of ObamaCare.

Murphy told reporters he is worried that there is “no language in the measure to counteract the massive sabotage campaign that's happening by the administration.” The measure is currently before members of the Senate Health Committee.

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The package in question was released earlier Wednesday by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare MORE (D-Wash.), the panel's leaders, and includes a range of measures aimed at lowering health care costs, such as protecting patients from massive “surprise” medical bills they get from out-of-network doctors.

But the measure steers clear of the divisive debate over ObamaCare, which Alexander says is by design after his previous effort with Murray to shore up the health care law ran aground because of the deep divide over ObamaCare.

Murphy, one of Democrats’ top advocates for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), says that the health care package should not move forward without addressing President TrumpDonald John TrumpNYT publisher: US didn't step in to protect reporter from arrest in Egypt so paper turned to Ireland Trump instructed administration to withhold military aid for Ukraine days before call with president: report More Democrats threaten impeachment over Trump's dealings with Ukraine MORE’s actions, which include slashing funding for enrollment outreach, opening up skimpier, cheaper health plans and backing a lawsuit to overturn the entire ACA.

“I'm not planning to; I'm considering it,” Murphy told reporters when asked about voting no in the committee markup next week.

He said he might also offer amendments to try to address the administration’s actions, but those are sure to be rejected by Republicans on the committee.

Democrats are trying to strike a balance between attacking Republicans for their assaults on ObamaCare, an issue that has borne political fruit, and working in a bipartisan way on health care legislation.

Murphy’s opinion differs from that of Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, who negotiated the package with Alexander and is supporting it.

When asked about Murphy's comments on Wednesday, Murray told reporters that she also wants to address the administration’s actions on ObamaCare but indicated she will not vote against the package over Republicans’ refusal to address ObamaCare in the legislation.

“I adamantly oppose what the administration has been doing,” Murray said. “We're working on a much smaller package of bills, but I still agree with Chris and all of us that we need to address sabotage.”

Alexander said in a statement in response to Murphy’s comments that the issue of ObamaCare should be handled separately from the bipartisan package.

“What to do about ObamaCare is a different debate that I’m sure will continue,” Alexander said. “In the end, it is hard to lower the cost of health insurance without first lowering the cost of health care.”

Murphy said he has been talking to his Democratic colleagues about his concerns and said others share them, though no other Senate Democrat has threatened to oppose the package because of the ObamaCare concerns.

A spokesperson for Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinFederal funding for Chinese buses risks our national security Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall The Trump downturn: Trouble ahead for the US economy MORE (D-Wis.), who has partnered with Murphy in the past on calling attention to ObamaCare “sabotage,” said that Baldwin is more concerned with adding a drug pricing transparency measure to the package than addressing ObamaCare in it.

“Senator Baldwin made it clear yesterday she would like her bipartisan FAIR Drug Pricing Act included in this legislation,” the Baldwin spokesperson said. “So she is not a yes on the larger HELP package at this time.”