Small Bipartisan Group Of Senators Meet Privately To Talk Health Care Policy

Tom Williams/CQPHO

About a dozen senators from both parties met Monday evening to discuss the opportunity for a bipartisan approach to health care policy. The meeting was spearheaded by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who have worked on an Obamacare replacement bill together.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was spotted heading into the meeting, and Collins estimated that another two or three other Democrats were present, though she would not reveal their identities. Among the Republicans seen heading out of the meeting were Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

“I don’t know yet whether there is [a bipartisan path forward on health care],” Collins, who was joined by Cassidy, told reporters after the meeting. “But it would be useful to invite some people to sit and talk about ideas and talk about whether it would be possible to come up with a bipartisan bill.”

Collins said that there were about 10 or 11 total senators in the meeting, and handful more who had been invited and were interested in going, but who were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.

Not much was said by members after the meeting about the policy details of what sort of bipartisan deal could be hatched on health care policy. Cassidy said his bill was discussed but that no one had necessarily had signed on and other options were worthy of consideration.

“This really was a meeting to look at all sorts of ideas,” Collins said.

The meeting comes after the House GOP passed an Obamacare repeal bill on party lines and as Senate Republicans are working on their own Obamacare repeal legislation that they plan to pass with GOP votes only. Cassidy and Collins were notably not included in the 13-member, leadership-ordained working group that has formed to work on the Senate’s repeal legislation. Collins said that leadership was aware of the bipartisan talks she was shepherding.

“What we’re trying to do is get away from the partisanship that has made it very difficult to come up with solutions,” Collins said. “We’re trying to get away from semantics, we’re trying to get away from people being locked into a party position.”

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Democrats, meanwhile, have said they would be willing to come to the table to improve the Affordable Care Act, but will not be involved in efforts that centered on the law’s repeal.