Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, applied a defibrillator to the fight by saying, in a statement, that he wants to continue to work with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on a modest measure to keep the individual health market going in 2018 and 2019.
(Related: Republicans Put Off Graham-Cassidy Vote)
Sens Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Tuesday, at a press conference, that they are still trying to pass their much broader Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson ACA overhaul proposal but lack the votes to do so this week.
“I would have voted for the Graham-Cassidy proposal, because it meant more money and state decision-making for Tennessee, and would have helped control the federal debt,” Alexander said in a statement. “But Graham-Cassidy primarily would have affected 2020 and beyond. I’m still concerned about the next two years, and Congress has an opportunity to slow down premium increases in 2018, begin to lower them in 2019, and do our best to make sure there are no counties where people have zero options to buy health insurance.”
The federal fiscal year ends Saturday.
A Senate arrangement that could let Republicans get a health budget measure, or some other budget measure, through the Senate with just 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes normally required under “regular order” rules, also expires Saturday.
Republicans hold 52 votes in the Senate, and Graham and Cassidy have been having trouble persuading 50 Republican senators to vote for the express. No Democratic senator has shown an interest in voting for it.
Alexander and Murray, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee, have been trying to develop a bill that could attract votes from enough Republicans and Democrats to get through the Senate with 60 votes, under the regular order rules.
In theory, a bipartisan Affordable Care Act bill could get through the Senate at any time. One concern is that supporters might have trouble attracting enough support from Republican congressional leaders to get a bipartisan bill to the Senate or House floor.
Alexander and Murray apparently have reached a broad agreement on the idea that the federal government should continue to fund Affordable Care Act subsidy programs for health coverage issuers and users in 2018 and 2019.
— Read Key Republican Says No Deal on Bipartisan ACA Fix Bill on ThinkAdvisor.