Chuck Schumer to Mitch McConnell: Work with Democrats on fixing Obamacare

Key Points
  • Senate Democrats like Minority Leader Chuck Schumer call on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work with them on a fix to Obamacare.
  • Doubts are growing that Senate Republicans can gather the support needed to pass their Obamacare replacement plan.
  • Returning to Washington from a break, they have only three weeks until another recess starts.
New health-care bill expected early next week

Senate Democrats on Monday pushed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work with them on an Obamacare fix as Republicans returned to Washington facing growing doubts that they can pass their bill to overhaul the health-care system.

In a letter to McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and three other Democrats called on McConnell to "focus on immediately advancing policies to provide stability and certainty to the health insurance markets." They asked Schumer to work with them in "advancing measures that would have an immediate impact on improving the health care system for American families."

Returning from a Fourth of July break with only three weeks until a recess for August, Republicans sit multiple votes short of the support needed to pass the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The Senate GOP is working on changes that could win over both its conservative and moderate wings, but those factions hold sometimes competing concerns about what it takes to improve the plan.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told CNBC on Monday he expects a revised version of the bill as early as Monday and still sees "a shot" of reaching the 50 votes needed to pass a plan. A spokesman for McConnell told CNBC that he does not "have any expectations of a bill release today," though he noted that the majority leader has said a Congressional Budget Office score is "forthcoming."

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Republicans, who control 52 seats, can only lose two of their party's senators and still pass the bill with a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. At least eight Republican senators oppose the plan as written.

Democrats have seized on the doubts about Republicans passing a plan on their own. The letter Monday followed McConnell's acknowledgement last week that a bill to stabilize insurance markets will be needed if Republicans cannot agree on a replacement.

"If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur," McConnell said in Kentucky over the recess, according to the Associated Press.

Democrats have previously said they will work with Republicans on Obamacare fixes to address insurers leaving the individual markets in certain states and rising premiums for some consumers. In the letter Monday, they highlighted priorities as "guaranteeing cost-sharing reduction payments, creating a permanent reinsurance program, addressing areas in the country without insurers, and easing the current cliff on cost-sharing subsidies."

"Such reforms would have an immediate effect on stabilizing the market while lowering premiums," the Democratic senators, including Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patty Murray of Washington and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, wrote to McConnell.

Underscoring the doubts about the Senate bill's future, President Donald Trump put pressure on GOP senators Monday on Twitter.

Trump: I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!

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