Washington is fixated on President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI chief James Comey and burgeoning investigations into possible connections between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.
But in closed-door meetings, Senate Republicans are trying to write legislation dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law. They would substitute their own tax credits, ease coverage requirements and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor and disabled that Obama enlarged.
The House passed its version this month, but not without difficulty, and now Republicans who run the Senate are finding hurdles, too.
A look at some of those obstacles and what senators are trying to doing about them:
GOP senators say they’re discussing a possible short-term bill if their health care talks drag on. It might include money to help stabilize shaky insurance markets with subsidies to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-earning people and letting states offer skimpier, and therefore less expensive, policies.
It’s unclear Democrats would offer their needed cooperation, but Republicans are talking about it.
“We’ve discussed quite a bit the possibility of a two-step process,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “In 2018 and ’19, we’d basically be a rescue team to make sure people can buy insurance.”
That could mean Republicans might even temporarily extend Obama’s individual mandate — the requirement that people to buy coverage or face tax penalties. It’s perhaps the part of Obama’s law that Republicans most detest. But it does prompt some people to purchase insurance, which helps curb premiums and make markets viable.
Alexander, R-Tenn., said there’s a “strong bias” to address short- and long-term problems in a single bill.
“If we can’t do the real thing, we’d have to do the next best thing,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said of short-term legislation.