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Sen. Orrin Hatch deals blow to bipartisan health care bill

Joe Williams, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, has dealt an emerging bipartisan health care bill a body blow.

President Donald Trump has sent mixed messages on his stance on the legislation from Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the panel, saying he opposed it on Wednesday after saying he supported it Tuesday.

But perhaps more importantly, Hatch, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, also came out on Wednesday in opposition.

"I can't co-sponsor it because I don't agree with it," the Utah Republican said. "I think he's trying to do a good thing, but it's only temporary."

When asked whether he could advance the bill over Hatch's opposition, Alexander said he is "going to try to attract everybody's support."

It would be very difficult for legislation related to the health insurance system to move through the Senate, let alone reach the president's desk, without the support of the chairman of the Finance Committee given its broad jurisdiction over health care.

Republicans and Democrats alike think Trump could be persuaded to support the bipartisan health bill. But GOP members previously said opposition from either Hatch or Alexander would prevent any proposal related to the insurance markets from advancing.

"If they oppose something, it's not going to happen, that's the respect they command in the conference. On the other hand, if they are behind it, people will take a second look even if initially they were not sure," Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said earlier this year.

Tensions between Hatch and Alexander came to a breaking point earlier this year as the latter began his attempts to try to reach a bipartisan compromise on a bill to stabilize the insurance markets created by the 2010 health law.

"Some are working on an approach that amounts to little more than a congressional bailout of Obamacare, including pumping tens of billions of dollars into the already failing system in the form of cost-sharing reduction payments," Hatch wrote in The Washington Post, referencing the effort in the HELP committee.

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