If Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander are successful in reaching a bipartisan health-care agreement, it could show the U.S. that Congress is capable of fixing problems.
During her re-election campaign last fall, Sen. Patty Murray promised repeatedly to work with Republicans to break gridlock in Congress. That promise was quickly put to a stiff test after the presidential election by the partisan chasm on health care.
President Trump and the GOP pushed to repeal Obamacare, and Murray’s conciliatory campaign prose turned combative. At times, Murray, who has a record of bipartisan deal-making, sounded like a partisan warrior.
“A message to Senate Republicans: stop sabotaging the health care system in ways that raise families’ costs and create uncertainty,’’ she wrote in a Facebook post in July. “And drop Trumpcare and the partisan, political effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Families nationwide have rejected Trumpcare — and that couldn’t be clearer.”
Now, after months of lobbing salvos at Trump, Murray has pivoted back to deal-making mode as she works with Republican colleagues on a long-shot effort to stabilize premiums in the individual markets where about 18 million Americans buy their health insurance.
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It’s a small bite out of the big problems surrounding health care in the United States, but one that, if successful, can show the country that Congress is still capable of fixing problems. Given the short time frame and the fact there has never been a major bipartisan bill to revamp Obamacare, success could remain elusive.
Murray’s dance partner this go-round is Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican with whom she successfully worked to revamp George W. Bush’s troubled No Child Left Behind law in 2015.
She and Alexander, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, are in the midst of hearings focused on quickly bringing stability to the nation’s individual health-insurance markets.
During hearings last week, Alexander cited his work with Murray on No Child as evidence of the committee’s ability to find solutions to even the most thorny and controversial topics.
Despite the long odds, he was confident, he said, that they could find a solution before Sept. 27, when insurers finalize their Obamacare plans and rates with the federal government for 2018.