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Sen. Patty Murray: GOP Trashed Bipartisan Bill For Latest ACA Repeal Attempt

A bipartisan health care bill has been stymied. But the reasons why depend on who you ask.

The two lawmakers behind the effort were Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Washington’s own Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat.  

Both sit on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee – Alexander is the committee chairman and Murray is the panel’s ranking member.

They had teamed up earlier this month to work on a bill to stabilize the insurance market, and had already started holding hearings with testimony from state governors, insurance commissioners and health care experts.

“We agreed to work on legislation to bring certainty back to insurance markets,” Murray said Wednesday. “And we wanted to work together to come up with a bipartisan way to get that done.” 

The lawmakers had hoped to agree on a plan this week until GOP leadership announced support of the latest attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, what’s being called the Cassidy-Graham bill

In a statement released Tuesday, Alexander wrote “during the last month, we have worked hard and in good faith, but have not found the necessary consensus among Republicans and Democrats to put a bill in the Senate leaders’ hands that could be enacted.”

But Murray sees it a different way. She believes they were close to reaching a deal until GOP leadership decided to put a freeze on her bipartisan health care plan, opting for repeal and replace legislation instead of improving the compromise bill. 

“My goal is to defeat their new proposal,” said Murray. “It’s horrendous for patients. It’s horrendous for advocates. The list is endless.”

The Cassidy-Graham bill is named after its two sponsors, Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans. Analysts say the bill could lead to millions of people losing their coverage and would severely cut federal funds to Medicaid. 

“That is really frightening and will create chaos,” said Murray. “It is really the worst of all bills that I have seen them put forward.” 

Senate GOP leaders say they intend to take their plan to a vote as early as next week.

<p>U.S. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.</p>
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U.S. Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Molly Solomon