WASHINGTON — President Trump reversed course Wednesday and threw cold water on a new bipartisan congressional health care plan designed to maintain subsidies for health insurance exchanges, thereby temporarily propping up the Affordable Care Act.
A day after signaling support for the plan developed by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., Trump tweeted Wednesday that the deal might benefit insurance companies too much.
Alexander, in a series of tweets Wednesday, indicated the deal may still have a chance. After getting a phone call from Trump, he wrote that he agrees the subsidies should benefit consumers and not insurers.
“The Alexander-Murray agreement has strong language to do that, and I will work with the president to see if we can make it even stronger,” Alexander tweeted.
Murray and Alexander have been drafting a bill for several months to boost the insurance marketplace, but the effort took on new urgency last week when Trump announced he would no longer fund the subsidies without congressional action.
While House and Senate Democratic leaders said they support the compromise, Republican leaders aren’t eager to bring it to the floor for a vote.
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s press secretary, Doug Andres, said in a Wednesday statement, “The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.”
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters, “We haven’t had a chance to think about the way forward yet.”
Regardless of Trump’s position, the deal’s Senate supporters will pursue an even number of bipartisan cosponsors to help build pressure for a vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York told reporters Wednesday.
“I spoke to Senator Alexander this morning, and I encouraged him, ‘Let’s go forward, period,’ and he’s game,” Schumer said. Once cosponsors are lined up, Schumer said he’ll ask McConnell for a vote.
“If that happened, I would be quite certain it would pass…and then there would be pressure on the House,” he said. “If the president will come out strongly for the bill and stick to that, that will help us get it through the House.”
Alexander also said Trump and the House will have to consider the agreement once more senators are on board.