Graham-Cassidy's ascent puts the brakes on Senate's push for bipartisan ACA fix

Paul Ryan speaking
House Speaker Paul Ryan has reportedly indicated that his conference wouldn't support an ACA stabilization bill that a Senate committee hoped to draft. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Though the Senate HELP Committee held hours of hearings to discuss a bipartisan fix for the Affordable Care Act exchanges, its attempt to craft such a measure have ground to a halt.

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Tuesday that he and Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., “have not found the necessary consensus among Republicans and Democrats to put a bill in the Senate leaders’ hands that could be enacted.”

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Murray, on the other hand, indicated that she wasn’t yet ready to give up.

“I am disappointed that Republican leaders have decided to freeze this bipartisan approach and are trying to jam through a partisan Trumpcare bill, but I am confident that we can reach a deal if we keep working together—and I am committed to getting that done,” she said.

Indeed, the death knell for the bipartisan solution likely came after a call between House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate GOP leadership, during which Ryan indicated he wouldn’t support an ACA stabilization bill, Politico reported.

What’s more, a congressional source told the publication that the White House informed GOP leaders that providing funding for ACA subsidies without repealing the law wouldn’t work.

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Both Ryan and the Trump administration are throwing their support instead behind the last-ditch repeal-and-replace bill from Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., which would funnel much of the federal funding for the ACA to states in the form of block grants.

On Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to offer public support for the bill, saying it would allow “states and governors to actually implement better healthcare ideas by taking more decision-making power out of Washington.”

Despite the momentum behind the Graham-Cassidy bill, however, GOP leaders are facing a tight timeline to push it through the Senate, as the budget-reconciliation instructions that allow them to pass the measure with a simple majority expire at the end of the month.

The Congressional Budget Office recently said that while it will release a preliminary report on the Graham-Cassidy bill by early next week, it will take several weeks to produce an analysis of the bill's impact on premiums, insurance coverage or the federal budget.