WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans showed signs Tuesday of reaching out to Democrats for a joint if modest effort to buttress health insurance markets, four days after the GOP effort to unilaterally uproot and reshape the Obama health care law crumpled in the Senate.
The Republican chairman of the Senate health committee, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, proposed bipartisan legislation extending for one year federal payments to insurers that help millions of low- and moderate-income Americans afford coverage. President Donald Trump has threatened to halt those subsidies in hopes of forcing Democrats to make concessions, but the Senate’s top Democrat on Tuesday called his moves “childish.”
The No. 2 Senate Republican also seemed to suggest that the two parties seek common health care ground. Citing the Senate’s “fragile majorities,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn said on the Senate floor, “We are forced to work together to try to solve these problems, and I think frankly bipartisan solutions tend to be more durable.”
In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rebuffed Trump’s demands that the Senate change its rules so it can pass a health overhaul with a simple majority vote. McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate lacks the votes to end filibusters of legislation like Trump wants, and noted that getting the 60 votes needed to end filibusters wasn’t why Republicans lost.
“It’s pretty obvious that our problem with health care was not the Democrats. We didn’t have 50 Republicans,” McConnell told reporters.
The prospects for passing any bipartisan health care legislation remain uncertain, with divisions between conservatives and moderate Republicans persisting on several issues. In particular, Trump, McConnell and some other Republicans have mocked the payments Alexander wants to renew as a bailout for insurers.
Nonetheless, the day’s comments collectively underscored the distance Senate Republicans are keeping from White House demands that they continue voting on repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul. Uprooting that law has been a top priority for Trump and most GOP congressional candidates, and failing to do it as they control the White House and Congress has angered many in the party.
Many top Republicans have said it’s time for the GOP to move from health care to other issues.
McConnell said “there’s still an opportunity” for Republicans to push health care legislation through the Senate alone. He said he was waiting for the…