Key Senate Republicans are urgently trying to get President Donald Trump to reconsider his apparent opposition to a bipartisan deal shoring up health insurance markets, several senators said Thursday morning.
Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who negotiated the deal with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, both spoke to the president about it on Wednesday evening. Trump has variously praised the deal and trashed it as a “bailout” of insurance companies, and both Graham and Alexander are trying to pull him back from the brink.
In a conversation on Wednesday, Trump told Graham: “I want a deal. I want to get something for this money,” Graham recounted. The South Carolina Republican responded by explaining that Republicans’ bills to repeal and replace Obamacare continued the law’s subsidy payments, called cost-sharing reductions, and argued the plan is a bridge to the Obamacare repeal bill he wrote with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
“I told him that if Graham-Cassidy became law tomorrow, you’ve got two or three years before this thing gets implemented. You’ve got to do something in the interim period,” Graham said in an interview. “You can’t save Obamacare but you can keep the markets from collapsing until we get a replacement, which will be Graham-Cassidy.”
Graham said he talked with White House officials again on Thursday and encouraged people to make a deal within the “realm” of reason.
Alexander, who introduced the bill Thursday with support from 11 other Senate Republicans and 12 Democrats, said it was his fourth phone call from the president over the past 10 days.
“I appreciate the president’s encouragement to create a short-term bipartisan solution and his willingness to consider it,” Alexander said.