Spending bill remains at impasse, major healthcare legislation unlikely to make the cut

Washington DC National Capitol Building
As negotiations remain at an impasse on the omnibus spending bill, ACA stabilization and the Caring for our Veterans Act look unlikely to be included. (Getty/lucky-photographer)

Lawmakers continued to negotiate the omnibus spending bill Wednesday morning, but hope has dimmed for any major healthcare legislation to make it in the final bill.

As Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill attempt to bridge differences on immigration funding and a major infrastructure project in the Northeast, legislation to stabilize the Affordable Care Act and an attempt to boost veterans’ access to care appear increasingly unlikely to make the cut.

The fight over ACA stabilization was caused in part by partisan arguments over abortion, according to NPR. Republican insistence on adding permanent Hyde Amendment language regarding abortion restrictions, left out of the original bill, has derailed opportunities to include stabilization legislation in the omnibus bill, despite what Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., calls “broadly bipartisan policy that would give states more flexibility and fund cost-sharing reduction subsidies as well as fund state reinsurance programs for three years.”

While legislators continue to work to find a way around the problem, Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that the odds Congress would pass ACA stabilization legislation outside the omnibus spending bill are “zero.”

At the same time, objections from Congressional Democrats have blocked the proposed Caring for our Veterans Act, according to the Washington Post. A House Democratic aide told the paper that the proposed legislation “won’t reduce wait times and won’t make the VA easier to use.”

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Meanwhile, other sources indicated House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had concerns over the degree to which the legislation would outsource care. It also reportedly would reduce congressional oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs, an agency currently embroiled in controversy over VA Secretary David Shulkin’s use of taxpayer money to pay for his wife’s European travel.

Even without major healthcare legislation on the line, a failure to pass the omnibus spending bill at all could affect the industry in the case of another potential government shutdown. The Hill reported a growing possibility that legislators could end up stuck voting on another continuing resolution to keep the government open if a deal can’t be reached by the midnight Friday deadline.