President Trump has reached out to Sen. Mike Lee, the conservative who helped deal what appeared to be a fatal blow to the Senate healthcare bill, as part of a last ditch effort to revive the legislation.
The healthcare bill appeared dead on Monday night, when Lee announced that he could not support the legislation because it did not go far enough in undoing Obamacare's regulatory infrastructure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., swiftly declared that the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare did not have enough support to move forward, and so he said the Senate would vote on a clean partial repeal bill. That bill, too, seemed quickly doomed.
Trump reached out to Lee, R-Utah, on Tuesday afternoon to take his temperature and, according to a spokesman for the senator, Lee reiterated his position that he wanted to free the market from Obamacare's regulations in an effort to drive down premiums and provide more choices.
Trump, according to the spokesman, seemed receptive.
At the urging of Trump, McConnell put off a planned vote on clean repeal until next week, and Wednesday GOP Senators will head to the White House for lunch to discuss the path forward. Though some assumed that this would be a meeting to try to convince Republicans to vote on the straight repeal measure, the call to Lee indicates that Trump still wants to pass a broader bill that includes a replacement.
Lee has indicated that he would be inclined to support the bill if it included a provision that he helped write with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow insurers to offer plans that do not have to abide by Obamacare's regulations as long as they offer plans that meet all of the requirements. Cruz eventually agreed to a compromise that would allow insurers to get around most of the regulations, but that maintained Obamacare's requirement that all insurers operate a single risk pool in a given state. That means that as written, insurers would be governed by two drastically different regulatory regimes within a single risk pool, which Lee determined would put upward pressure on premiums.
Even if Lee's preferred version of the amendment were added, however, McConnell would face problems trying to get skeptical to adamantly opposed centrists onboard with the legislation.