House Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House have informed Senate Republican leaders that they oppose a bipartisan plan to stabilize Obamacare being written in the Senate, according to Trump administration and congressional sources, in a clear bid to boost the Senate's prospects of repealing the health law.
After Senate Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare in July, talks began on fixing the law rather than dismantling it. The dose of cold water from senior GOP officials will put pressure on Republican senators to back a last-ditch bill to gut Obamacare before a Sept. 30 deadline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backed that approach publicly on Tuesday.
Republicans say that while the bipartisan talks between Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) initially seemed promising, many in the GOP fear providing money for Obamacare but offering little for conservatives — especially after Republican lawmakers have been throttled by President Donald Trump and the GOP base for failing to repeal the health law.
Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the Trump administration is all-in on the latest repeal effort, flying to Washington with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to deliver a message to the Senate GOP on repeal: "This is the moment. Now is the time," according to a pool report. Ryan and Trump called them during the plane ride as well.
Trump has threatened to withhold billions in Obamacare subsidies, which would upend private insurance markets. Alexander and Murray were working on legislation to have Congress provide those subsidies while allowing states more flexibility, but those talks fell apart after this story was published.
Republicans claim Democrats are not willing to bend enough. Democrats reject that claim and say it is intended to sink bipartisan negotiations.
The “speaker is drawing a red line” and said the House “would not be able to pass a bailout of insurers,” said one congressional source familiar with the dynamics. “The White House also told GOP leaders that [Obamacare subsidies] without repeal would not work.”
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