Democrats on Wednesday seized on Obamacare enrollment figures as well as election wins for their party to urge Republican Senate leaders to pass a bipartisan healthcare bill.
"If Republican leaders haven't gotten the message voters made it pretty clear last night that they reject the deeply partisan message on healthcare," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top-ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said on the Senate floor.
Murray worked with Sen. Lamar Alexander, the HELP committee's chairman, to arrive at a deal on healthcare that includes paying cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers and allows states more flexibility in the changes they can make to Obamacare. The bill, which was introduced three weeks ago, has 24 co-sponsors from both parties in the Senate, but the White House has urged changes to remove other parts of the law, such as the individual mandate that requires everyone to have health insurance or pay a penalty.
Democrats took to the Senate floor Wednesday, pointing to gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia on Tuesday, as well as a ballot measure advanced in Maine to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, to press their colleagues to pass the Alexander-Murray bill. They also pointed to reports that show 200,000 people signed up for coverage on Healthcare.gov on the first day of open enrollment, Nov. 1. The number is double the signups at the same time last year.
Democrats have accused the Trump administration of trying to "sabotage" Obamacare, noting that it cut the period to sign up for care in half, reduced funding for advertising and for navigators, and ended the cost-sharing reduction payments.
"Despite all the efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act ... we are seeing a record number of people enroll in the initial days of open enrollment," said Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
Shaheen called the surge "remarkable" and said she was "heartened" by the results. She credited groups who have waged their own social media and outreach campaigns for the increase.
Trump's Department of Health and Human Services has not set targets for how many people will enroll in plans on healthcare.gov, but outside groups have said they expect it to be lower than in past years because of rising costs for customers who don't receive subsidies from the federal government and because of changes in outreach by the Trump administration. Others point out that even though groups above a certain income are facing higher premiums, people who receive subsidies may have the option to buy coverage this year for less money because of the way states distributed costs.
Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken also appeared on the floor to push for GOP leaders to bring the Alexander-Murray bill to the floor.
Republicans are expected to speak about the bill later Wednesday.