Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he wants to make federal funding of Obamacare subsidies permanent before working with Republicans on other reforms to the troubled health care law the GOP has been unable to repeal.
Schumer said "there is a thirst" among Republicans to work with Democrats on reforming Obamacare following early Friday's defeat of the Republican plan to repeal the law.
"At the very beginning, we should stabilize the system," Schumer said Friday. "Make permanent the cost sharing, which keeps premiums low."
Schumer said he also wants to negotiate with the GOP on reviving insurance bailout payments from the federal government, known as reinsurance, as well as a plan by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to provide healthcare coverage in rural areas where there are no policies offered.
"That is what we should do initially," Schumer said. "Then, we should sit down and trade ideas."
Schumer emerged Friday with the attitude that his party now has leverage in the healthcare reform debate after Republicans failed to find enough support within their own party to begin the process of repealing Obamacare. A "skinny" repeal measure failed thanks to three GOP senators who voted against it, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Schumer said he has already talked to Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., about a bipartisan collaboration on rescuing the law, which is suffering from a collapse of the individual insurance marketplaces.
Schumer said Republicans approached him in the Senate chamber early Friday morning as it became apparent the GOP bill would fail and thanked him for pushing bipartisan talks, and told Schumer they want to be involved. "There is a thirst to do it," Schumer said.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who suffered a major defeat when the bill failed to pass, remained silent Friday afternoon about the path forward.
He signaled on the Senate floor following the defeat of the GOP bill that he would not be willing to simply pour more federal money into Obamacare, which suggests the cost sharing and reinsurance proposals would not happen without concessions from the Democrats.
Schumer said Friday he understands that dynamic.
"There has to be a give and take," Schumer said. "My colleagues and my caucus know that."
Schumer said he believes there is new impetus to work in a bipartisan way, even though Democrats passed Obamacare in 2010 without a single Republican on board.
McCain's surprise vote against the measure, Schumer said, could prompt new bipartisanship.
"Sometimes you need a spark that inspires the forces of coming together that outweigh the forces of pulling part," Schumer said. "And John McCain may have done that."