The bipartisan bill to stabilize the individual health insurance market, restore subsidies to insurers to cover low-income patients, restore funding for enrollment outreach, and give states more regulatory flexibility would pass the Senate with a filibuster-proof supermajority—if GOP leadership allows a vote.
But while at least 60 senators are lined up ready to cast their votes in favor of the bill, which was hammered out over months of delicate bipartisan negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is refusing to allow a vote until President Trump gives the bill his blessing.
In this face of this blockade, the Senate’s Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to floor Monday afternoon to plead with the President.
“Let me make a direct appeal,” he said. “Mr. President, come out and support the Alexander-Murray bill. You’ve called it ‘a very good solution’ already. Announce you’ll support it, and it will pass through the Senate soon after.”
Since abruptly ordering billions of payments to insurers be cut off, Trump has cycled through every possible position on the bill to resume the payments—one day praising it and taking credit for the negotiations that created it, the next day blasting it as a “bailout” for insurance companies, and the next laying out demands for changes certain to kill its chances of passage.
Over the weekend, multiple White House officials laid out different demands, ranging from the expansion of health saving accounts to effectively killing the Affordable Care Act’s individual and employer mandates.
Because 60 votes are already lined up and these demands are far outside what Democrats would be willing to concede, negotiations have not yet reopened. Instead, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are attempting to lobby Trump to once again endorse the deal.
“I can assure the President that Senators Alexander and Murray took great pains to make sure that insurance companies would not get one extra penny from this deal,” Schumer said Monday. “I’ve read the language. I’ve worked with them. It’s good. It’s strong. They’ve included provisions to prevent insurance companies from double-dipping on the cost-sharing program and make sure the money goes where it is intended: to keep premiums and other out-of-pocket costs down for low-income Americans.”
In his speech, Schumer cited the large premium increases happening around the country in direct response to Trump’s decision to cut off the cost-sharing reduction payments, and called on Trump directly to “stop the sabotage.”
McConnell did not mention the bill, or health care policy in general, in his opening speech.