Several House Republicans on Tuesday said they oppose bipartisan legislation in the Senate to stabilize Obamacare in return for repealing the law’s individual mandate that everyone buy insurance.
The reaction in the House is critical to any deal moving beyond the Senate. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has opposed the bipartisan deal from Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.
“I don’t see that as something we are gonna take up right now,” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the 170-member Republican Study Committee.
Some Republicans remained vociferously opposed to the deal that funds Obamacare insurer payments for two years in exchange for more flexibility for states to waive regulations.
“Alexander-Murray is toxic. Congress should not subsidize health insurance companies,” tweeted Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio.
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, added that he supports repealing the mandate but not the subsidies. But he said he would wait to see the final Senate tax reform package before making a final decision.
Other Republicans said that coupling the repeal of the individual mandate with Alexander-Murray would help them give the legislation a second look.
“It would make me think more positively in that direction,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. “Obviously there is some cost to the cost-sharing arrangement, but I would take a look at that.”
Conservative Republicans and President Trump have labeled the insurer payments that the deal would fund for two years as “bailouts.” However, the payments reimburse insurers for lowering out-of-pocket costs such as copays for low-income enrollees on Obamacare’s exchanges, which is required under the law.
The Trump administration decided to halt the payments last month, so insurers are raising premiums by as much as 39 percent for 2018.
The House is expected to take up its own tax reform package on Thursday that likely will not include a repeal of the individual mandate. However, once each chamber passes its bill, the House and Senate will meet in a conference to iron out any differences between the legislation, and the final versions would go before both chambers for final passage.
The Alexander-Murray package would be a separate vote from the tax reform package.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the second-ranking GOP senator, told the Washington Examiner Tuesday that the Alexander-Murray legislation could be brought up at the end of the year.
When asked by reporters if that means adding it to an omnibus spending package, Cornyn responded that "makes sense to me.”