Trump encourages Alexander to keep trying on Obamacare deal

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander says President Donald Trump called him in late December to urge that the Tennessee Republican continue efforts to shore up health insurance markets, reports Politico in an article updating the Obamacare situation in Washington.

The reality is the GOP is so divided on Obamacare, they don’t have the votes to achieve either objective — repeal or stabilization. That means former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment could keep limping along, crippled by the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax law but lifted by the surprisingly strong enrollment for the coming year.

…Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington say they will resume talks on the Obamacare payments with a goal of shoring up the health markets…  But even if he and Murray reach a new deal, the bill stands little chance of getting through the House without Trump’s public and consistent cheerleading.

“If they can get their heads together and President Trump endorses it, it will pass,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) predicted.

So far, House Republicans aren’t on board.

“Alexander-Murray is a really tough one, I think, in this chamber,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). House Republicans would want to add abortion restrictions, Cramer and other GOP lawmakers say, and they don’t want to send “bailout” money to insurance companies.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is already working on resurrecting a fast-track procedural motion to pass the Graham-Cassidy proposal, which would tear up much of Obamacare and block-grant smaller sums to the states. It was the heart of a last-ditch repeal effort in September, but the GOP ran out of time and shelved the idea… Graham argues that after repealing the mandate in tax reform — and thus weakening how the Obamacare market functions — Republicans have to live up to a “you break it, you buy it” contract with Obamacare.

“The Republican Party cannot avoid the obligation to replace,” Graham said.

But are Republicans crazy to try repeal again in 2018 with one less vote in the Senate — Alabama Sen.-elect Doug Jones is a Democrat — after spending nine months of last year in a fruitless effort?

“I think it would be crazy if you don’t,” Graham said. “How can you repeal the individual mandate and say we’re done? The thing’s going to crumble. We better find a replacement that works.”

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