Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Wednesday called for reviving bipartisan efforts to reach a deal to fix ObamaCare after an agreement she was part of collapsed last year.
“Mr. Chairman, I’m really hopeful that we can revive discussions in the new Congress and find a way past the ideological standoffs of the past,” Murray said to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), her Republican partner in forging last year’s deal, at a hearing on health care costs.
The deal last year, which came to be known as Alexander-Murray, sought to lower premiums and stabilize the ObamaCare markets, but was stalled for months amid the bitter partisan divide over the health law and a dispute about including abortion restrictions on the funding in the bill.
Alexander on Wednesday expressed skepticism about the ability to reach a new agreement, but said he is willing to try if Murray wants to.
“We can revisit the so-called Alexander-Murray proposal if you would like,” Alexander said, but added that Democrats opposed the previous version, in his view, because they would not support restrictions on abortion funding known as the Hyde Amendment. Democrats countered that the measure actually would have expanded the scope of the abortion restrictions in an unacceptable way.
“I regretted that that didn’t work and maybe we can find a way to make it work in the new session,” Alexander added. “Certainly we’ll try on the issue of health care costs, which are the larger issue.”
There is still no clear path beyond the abortion dispute, making a new agreement difficult.
The ground has also shifted since last year, making many Democrats call for bolder action, like expanding the generosity of ObamaCare’s financial assistance and overruling actions President Trump has taken that Democrats say undermine the market.
Both of those proposals would be hard for many Republicans to support.
Still, Alexander and Murray have not sat down to reopen negotiations and it is unclear what each side would be pushing for in these early stages.
One change is that Democrats will control the House next year, which could add new pressures. Many Democrats saw House Republicans as the main obstacle to a deal last year, so it could change the dynamic that House Republicans will have less power next year in the minority.