WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan deal from two senators to stabilize Obamacare by restoring subsidies to health insurers suffered major setbacks on Wednesday with the White House saying President Donald Trump now opposes it and senior Republicans speaking out against it.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, Senate Republican leadership member John Thune and others expressed hostility to the deal announced on Tuesday by Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray. It was uncertain if it would ever come to a vote in a Congress controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.
The agreement would shore up Obamacare by reviving billions of dollars of federal subsidies to insurers for two years to help lower-income Americans obtain medical coverage.
Alexander said on Wednesday that Trump had “completely engineered” the bipartisan proposal, but the president backed away from support he had expressed a day earlier.
On Tuesday, Trump said the White House was involved in the negotiations and that the agreement was “a very good solution” for a short-term approach, but said on Wednesday he could “never support bailing out” insurance companies.
Trump has cut off subsidies to the companies, saying Congress has not provided money for them and that they enrich insurers.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump did not support the deal in its current form, although she called it “a good step in the right direction.”
“Look, we’ve said all along that we want something that doesn’t just bail out the insurance companies but actually provides relief for all Americans,” she said at a briefing. “And this bill doesn’t address that fact.”
The confusion among lawmakers in both parties over Trump’s position on the healthcare deal and the lack of trust some of them have in the president come as Congress is entering a crucial period when important bills on federal spending, the U.S. debt limit and tax cuts are due for consideration.
Thune said the agreement might have “stalled out” and that its future was an “open question.” Republicans have a 52-48 Senate majority, but other than Alexander only a few have publicly embraced the plan, including Senators John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mike Rounds and Bob Corker.
“No way to pay for it,” Hatch said. “Oh my gosh, give me a break. I appreciate the innovation and the attempt to do it right. But it doesn’t help.”
Trump, who campaigned on a promise to get rid of Obamacare but has been frustrated by the failure of Republicans in Congress to pass legislation to do so, also made clear he wanted broader legislation to repeal and replace the law.