Several House Republicans said two bipartisan Obamacare stabilization bills need to include more reforms in order to get support in the House.
The comments came the same day that some senators said a deal to end a three-day government shutdown provides a new opportunity to approve the two bills. The comments highlight the same struggle that has plagued the two bills: While the Senate GOP leadership and President Trump are on board with passage, the House is not.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said more reforms to Obamacare must be added to the bills to get enough support.
“So far the only thing I have seen is additional flexibility at the state level. For me it is not enough,” said Cole. “I want something substantial to justify a vote for that.”
He was referring to a bill sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., that funds cost-sharing reduction payments to Obamacare insurers in return for giving states more flexibility to waive the law’s insurer regulations.
Another bill sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., gives states $10 billion over two years to set up reinsurance programs. The programs cover the highest claims from Obamacare insurers who in turn lower premiums overall.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Trump promised Collins a vote on both bills by the end of the year in exchange for her vote on tax reform. Collins got on board for tax reform, which passed last month, after receiving the assurances and after several other amendments she pushed for got included in the final tax bill.
However, Congress did not include the two bills in a Dec. 22 short-term spending deal as the House GOP is largely opposed to the bills, with some calling the Obamacare cost-sharing payments a “bailout.”
That position has not changed, several conservative lawmakers said Monday.
“The CSRs are still something that most of the guys I am talking with are saying I can’t get there,” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the 170-member Republican Study Committee.
“I don’t know that there is a whole lot of support for it here,” added Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Meadows said there could be support if more reforms are added that “do something to lower premiums in conjunction with that.”
Several senators said the goal is to add the two bills to a must-pass vehicle like a long-term spending deal called an “omnibus.”
“You have to get to an omnibus or an appropriation bill in order to get Alexander-Murray attached,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., a supporter of both bills.
Alexander has also previously said the goal is to include the bill into an omnibus.
He said the short-term spending deal that ended the government shutdown means an omnibus is more likely now. That deal funds the government until Feb. 8, and Republicans and Democrats are pushing to get a deal on an omnibus by that time.
Rounds said that before the newest spending deal, there was no promise of working towards an omnibus. This is the fourth short-term spending patch to fund the federal government since the end of September.
But Cole warned against adding the Obamacare bills to a must-pass omnibus.
“You are trying to jam the other chamber and Democrats just tried to do that and it didn’t work,” said Cole, referring to the three-day shutdown caused by Democratic opposition to a spending deal on Friday. “I think you would have a big eruption on our side. I think our people want something with it that is a comparable concession.”
Collins is bullish that the two bills would become law.
She said she spoke to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., twice about the legislation and is in contact with several House committees as well.
“He actually is quite enthusiastic about the Collins-Nelson high-risk bill, and I think we are proceeding in a pretty good way,” she said, referring to Ryan.
Ryan has previously called Alexander-Murray a “bailout” of Obamacare and refused to support the legislation when it was unveiled last October.
“He is definitely open to Alexander-Murray as well,” Collins said of the speaker. “I don’t want to characterize it. That is not my bill, but I want both bills.”
Ryan’s office did not return a request for comment.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., the chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, told the Washington Examiner the committee is working with House and Senate staff and members on the bills.
“This is a priority for us to work on. I think we will be accelerating now that CHIP is taken care of,” he said, referring to the six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program included in the short-term spending deal Congress passed Monday.