Senate GOP may look to Democrats to help fix Obamacare if McConnell can't strike a deal

Key Points
  • Mitch McConnell is working to strike a deal by Friday to pass the Republicans' health-care reform bill.
  • As he tries to win support for a bill that several Republicans have opposed, some GOP senators are saying that working with Democrats is looking more likely.
Even if the GOP health bill passes, Mitch McConnell must go: CNBC columnist

Republicans and Democrats may soon be forced to get along on health care.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to strike a deal by Friday as several moderate and conservative GOP senators oppose the Senate's current bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. While McConnell could still win over enough Republican members to pass his current plan, the prospect of the GOP having to work with Democrats to patch up Obamacare is increasing.

Moderate GOP senators like Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Dean Heller of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio have various concerns with the current bill. They want to blunt the effects of a Medicaid expansion rollback, curb the estimated number of people the plan leaves uninsured and get more help with the opioid crisis.

They have some common ground with Democrats, many of whom have said they are open to Obamacare tweaks that would aim to slow premium increases and stop the exodus of insurers from some states.

"I'm one that wants to work with my friends," moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told MSNBC on Thursday. "I've been reaching out, and Shelley and I have been speaking. Susan Collins and I have been speaking. Dean Heller and I have been speaking. We want to fix this thing. And [Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer wants to fix this thing."

The Republican Party has promised for most of a decade to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature achievement, and replace it with a new system. United Democratic opposition to any form of repeal means the GOP would have to pass its current plan with only Republican support.

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Republicans can only lose two votes in the Senate and pass the current plan, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. At least eight GOP senators have said they will not vote for the bill as written, including some conservatives who want a full Obamacare repeal.

Though McConnell is known as a skilled negotiator, reaching a deal before Friday could be tough. "Pigs could fly," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Wednesday about that prospect, according to NBC News.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told NBC News on Wednesday that it may be time to negotiate with Democrats if the GOP does not reach a deal on Friday.

Collins said this week that she wanted to work with both parties to "fix the flaws" of Obamacare. Murkowski expressed a similar sentiment Tuesday to NBC News.

"When did we get to the point where we said, 'No, we're not going to talk to Democrats about a fix?' We should be working with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle," Murkowski said.

Manchin, up for re-election next year in a Trump state, is seen as among the most likely Democrats to work with Republicans. Other potential Democrats open to working with the GOP include Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota or Joe Donnelly of Indiana.


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