Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would call a vote on bipartisan health-care legislation to stabilize the Affordable Care Act — that is, if President Trump is onboard with it.
“I’m not certain yet, what the president is looking for here, but I’ll be happy to bring a bill to the floor if I know President Trump would sign it,” McConnell told Dana Bash.
Trump has been difficult to pin down on the issue, to put it mildly. After Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray announced they had come to an agreement on a bill this week, Trump contradicted himself within a matter of minutes on whether he would support it. He has appeared to back some sort of short-term fix to Obamacare, but has also tweeted that he would never “bail out” insurance companies (a very inaccurate depiction of what the bill would actually do). Whether Trump’s intense hatred of his predecessor’s signature law will override the prospect of a possible political win — not to mention relief for millions of Americans — is anyone’s guess.
The Alexander-Murray bill has been in the works for months, ever since the collapse of a major GOP effort to repeal Obamacare in July. But the effort has been lent new urgency after Trump’s decision to cut off key payments to insurers, which could lead to skyrocketing premiums for some consumers who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace. Trump’s unwillingness to commit to the payments has already led to a spike in prices.
The narrowly tailored legislation would guarantee the continuation of the payments for two years and restore funding for Obamacare outreach that the Trump administration has gutted. In return for those concessions, Republicans would gain increased flexibility for states that want to tinker with the Affordable Care Act.
In a rare display of bipartisanship, the bill has been co-sponsored by several Republicans wary of being held responsible for a collapsing health-care system — including some who had previously voted for (or even co-sponsored) legislation to kill the Affordable Care Act.
On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill has the support of 60 senators.
Even if Trump does indicate his support, there’s the GOP House to contend with. House Speaker Paul Ryan is plainly unenthusiastic about any legislation that would prop up Obamacare. But if the president and Senate are leaning on him, Ryan and his hard-line caucus may well bow to the pressure and approve it anyway.
In a hopeful sign that a deal may materialize, Office of Management and Budget chief Mick Mulvaney suggested on Sunday that President Trump could back some form of congressionally mandated insurance payments in conjunction with more minor tweaks to Obamacare.
If an agreement doesn’t emerge soon, the drama might come to a head during budget negotiations at the end of the year. Democrats could threaten a government shutdown if Republicans don’t accede to a set of legislative demands that would likely include restoring the insurer payments and offering protection to DACA recipients.