A growing number of Republicans on Capitol Hill are throwing support behind a deal to provide congressional approval for the Obamacare cost sharing subsidies axed by an executive order from the Trump administration earlier this month.
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, who worked with Democrat Sen. Patty Murray to ink a deal to save the subsidies, urged his GOP colleagues Thursday to give up any hope that the party can deliver on the full Obamacare repeal promised to conservative voters for almost a decade.
“We’ve had about 50 votes, maybe more, and we lost them all. And we made thousands of speeches and we lost them all,” Alexander said on the Senate floor.
So far, the Lamar/Murray Obamacare bailout has the support of 11 powerful Republican co-sponsors in the Senate, including: Mike Rounds (S.D.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Lisa Murkowski(Alaska), Richard Burr (N.C.), and Bob Corker (Tenn.).
Many of those senators hail from states massive budget headaches in the event of Medicaid funding cuts that would accompany a full repeal of the healthcare law.
“I would ask what’s conservative about unaffordable premiums?” Alexander asked. “What’s conservative about creating chaos so millions can’t buy health insurance?”
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he doesn’t support Alexander’s effort, tweeting that it amounts to an insurance company bailout.
“I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care,” the president said on Twitter.
But Alexander claims that Trump was more supportive during private conversations between the two.
“I want to thank President Trump for his encouragement. He’s the one who called me ten days ago and called me again last Saturday and called me twice yesterday,” Alexander said.
The lawmaker added that Trump told him the White House was working on a block grant program to replace Obamacare, but didn’t want people to suffer in the meantime.”
The Alexander/Murray subsidy scheme has a pretty good chance of passing in the Senate. In the House, where leaders of the powerful Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee (RSC) have already spoken against the deal, its chances are bleak.
In other words, the deal is likely to suffer the same fate as earlier efforts to pass weak Obamacare reforms earlier in the year.
Still, conservatives ought to keep a close watch on what happens in the Senate. As conservative strategist Steve Bannon intensifies his efforts to mount primary challenges to GOP incumbents in the 2018 midterms, voting for the Lamar/Murray Obamacare bailout could create big trouble for lawmakers he’s targeting (like Corker and Sen. Jeff Flake) in the months ahead.
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