Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Republicans onWednesday that if they pass a bill to gut Obamacare's individual mandate then Democrats will no longer support a bipartisan bill that would help to stabilize the law.
Republicans on Tuesday added repeal of the individual mandate, which requires Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine, to their tax overhaul bill. Senate GOP leaders also said that if it were to pass, they would also be willing to take up a bipartisan bill known as Alexander-Murray, which includes payments to insurers and flexibility for states. The proposal was meant to win over centrist Republicans, who worry about some of the projections from the Congressional Budget Office showing that 13 million more people would be uninsured in a decade if the individual mandate were to be repealed.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats would not help to pass the Alexander-Murray bill if the tax bill goes forward with the individual mandate provision. The tax bill needs 50 votes in the Senate while Alexander-Murray needs 60 votes, and Republicans hold a 52-seat majority.
"The Republicans cannot expect to pass their own separate ideological healthcare provision and then turn around and ask Democrats to vote to pass Alexander-Murray," Schumer said. "You can't create major injury to the healthcare system and hurt millions, and then say, 'Please give us a Band-Aid.' That's not what's going to happen, that's not the right thing to do. Any Republican senator who thinks they can pass the individual mandate and then turn around and get Alexander-Murray passed is dead wrong."
Weeks ago Senate leaders said Alexander-Murray had the 60 votes to pass. It does not, however, have support from the White House or from the House. Republicans have pushed back on CBO projections about repeal, and the agency is reviewing its methods but won't have a new analysis ready in time for Thanksgiving, the self-imposed deadline placed on a tax overhaul bill.
Despite questions over the projections, Schumer warned that Alexander-Murray would "never repair" projected damage done by repealing the individual mandate.
"You don't attempt to blow up the healthcare system and then say, 'We're going to make a few tweaks to make it better,'" Schumer said in remarks from the Senate floor.
"Anyone who thinks they can justify the changes that the majority leader has said he will put in the bill by saying, 'Oh, we'll then pass Alexander-Murray,' is wrong on the substance and wrong on the politics, because it won't pass," he continued.