Sen. Lamar Alexander said President Donald Trump praised the Tennessee Republican’s work on health care in the lunch with Republican senators Tuesday, but added the ball is now in the White House’s court.
“He was speaking about something else, he saw me and turned to the side and said, ‘I appreciate your great work on health care. It’s good. It’s good,’ ” Alexander told CNN on Tuesday.
But Alexander said after working on a short-term compromise that the President asked for, it’s time for the Trump administration to decide the next steps.
“The White House has the ball,” Alexander said, adding, “We’ve made our recommendations, (ranking health committee Democrat Sen. Patty) Murray and I, 24 senators. I think it’s up to the White House to take the suggestions, work with Senate and House leaders, and come up, and decide, what the President would like to do.”
Alexander stressed that he wanted to persuade the President that the bipartisan bill contains language to clarify that the 2018 cost-sharing payments don’t “bail out insurers.” He said he welcomed input from the White House and others to make that clearer, adding that the Congressional Budget Office report on his bill was expected to be released this week and, he suggested, would address the insurers. Trump announced his administration would end payment for the cost-sharing subsidies on October 12.
“I think there is a growing recognition that we need to do something before the end of the year,” Alexander said.
Trump had previously cited the idea of a “bail out” to insurers as a reason why he wouldn’t back Murray and Alexander’s proposal.
Alexander said his proposal could end up in a year-end spending deal, but again suggested the White House needed to weigh in on that.
Alexander argued that another GOP alternative bill, released Tuesday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, was “very encouraging. A few weeks ago there wasn’t much talk of cost sharing payments and now you’ve got the President asking us to come up with a bipartisan proposal that included them.”
But the senator suggested that proposal faced obstacles to moving forward in the Senate.
“I agree with everything that is in Senator Hatch’s bill, the question is, do Democrats?” Alexander asked, a reference to the fact Democratic votes would be needed for such legislation to advance out of the Senate.