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McConnell blocked previous bipartisan health care bill from coming to a vote—despite wide support on both sides of the aisle—and held votes on repeal legislation and partisan GOP tax bill instead

 Earlier this week, Republicans announced a new partisan health care bill, without giving Democrats in negotiations any notice

Republican health care package takes huge steps beyond current law to block women from even being able to buy abortion coverage with their own money

 Senator Murray introduces amendment reflecting what Senate Democrats and Republicans have previously said are shared goals

 Senator Murray:I am extremely disappointed that we have reached this point—but that does not mean I am giving up on getting this done.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, spoke on the Senate floor about her disappointment in Republican’s latest actions to scuttle bipartisan negotiations on health care stabilization by introducing a new, partisan bill. 

In her remarks on the Senate floor, Senator Murray reiterated her desire to find a bipartisan solution, and reminded her colleagues of the previous bipartisan health care legislation she and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced with broad support—which Republican leadership refused to hold a vote on. Senator Murray promised to continue focusing on the goals of her original negotiations and introduced an amendment to reduce premiums and stabilize the market—a shared priority for Democrats and Republicans.

Key Excerpts of Senator Murray’s speech:

“Unfortunately, Senator McConnell blocked our bipartisan agreement, because he wanted to pressure his caucus into supporting yet another harmful Republican repeal bill. That Trumpcare bill failed, M. President—and I was hopeful that after it did, we could make progress on our bipartisan legislation. Instead, Senate Republican leaders opted to do the exact opposite—they jammed through a terrible tax bill that actually raised families’ premiums to pay for tax cuts for massive corporations.”

“… imagine my frustration when, at the very last minute—just days ago—Republican leaders once again made clear that they didn’t want to lower families’ premiums. They didn’t want to stabilize a health care system that, as one House Republican said, they never supported anyway, and Senate Republicans opted instead to surprise Democrats with a new, last-minute partisan so-called “stabilization” bill—one that included poison pills Republicans knew Democrats would never agree to.”

“…this partisan bill also pulled the most worn page out of the Republican ideological playbook: making extreme, political attacks on women’s health care. This partisan bill would take huge steps beyond current law—making it so that women can’t even buy abortion coverage using their own money.”

“And I think that was made pretty clear when Republicans surprised us with this last-minute change in a press release—without inviting any Democrats to join. Because M. President—I believe—and I think most people would agree—that the massive expansions of restrictions on women’s access to safe, legal abortion that we see in this partisan bill have nothing to do with lowering families’ premiums or making health care work better in our country. That’s not something that was in our original deal that had bipartisan support—and it’s not something that should be in this bill now.”

“… we are frustratingly close to an agreement—and I still believe we can get there. This shouldn’t be about the blame game. It shouldn’t be about pointing fingers. It should be about getting a result. So I hope Republicans and Democrats will join me in supporting the amendment I am offering today—and that even if they don’t, I hope we can get back to the table and resume talks. I truly believe there are Republicans who want to do the right thing for patients and families—even if their leadership is determined to avoid a real debate and vote on a so-called ‘Obamacare bailout.’ Our work last fall showed that we can reach agreement when we put aside partisan politics and focused on what’s best for families—and I’m ready to get back to work as soon as Republicans are.”

Full text below of Senator Murray’s speech:

“M. President, reserving the right to object—I want to take a moment to discuss how we got to this point, and why I am hopeful that despite Republican leaders’ decision to once again scuttle bipartisan negotiations on health stabilization, that we can return to the table and work together to do what patients and families want: strengthen health care and lower their premiums next year.

“M. President, Chairman Alexander has said that in September, every Democrat in the Senate was ready to pass the original Alexander-Murray legislation. He’s right. We wanted to work with Republicans to undo as much of President Trump’s health care sabotage as possible, because of how it is hurting families and forcing them to pay more for care.

“Unfortunately, Senator McConnell blocked our bipartisan agreement, because he wanted to pressure his caucus into supporting yet another harmful Republican repeal bill. That Trumpcare bill failed, M. President—and I was hopeful that after it did, we could make progress on our bipartisan legislation. Instead, Senate Republican leaders opted to do the exact opposite—they jammed through a terrible tax bill that actually raised families’ premiums to pay for tax cuts for massive corporations.

“Even after that, M. President—I and Democrats were still at the table and ready to do what we could to stabilize markets and lower families’ health care costs.

“So, M. President, imagine my frustration when, at the very last minute—just days ago—Republican leaders once again made clear that they didn’t want to lower families’ premiums. They didn’t want to stabilize a health care system that, as one House Republican said, they never supported anyway, and Senate Republicans opted instead to surprise Democrats with a new, last-minute partisan so-called “stabilization” bill—one that included poison pills Republicans knew Democrats would never agree to.

“M. President, the partisan bill Republicans surprised us with would undermine access to care for people with pre-existing conditions, by writing President Trump’s junk plans rule into law, and by taking away protections included in my original agreement with Chairman Alexander to make sure the sickest patients don’t find themselves in a dramatically more expensive market.

“And, M. President, this partisan bill also pulled the most worn page out of the Republican ideological playbook: making extreme, political attacks on women’s health care. This partisan bill would take huge steps beyond current law—making it so that women can’t even buy abortion coverage using their own money.

“From the start of negotiations last fall, I have made it abundantly clear that I will not allow women’s reproductive freedoms to become a political football in these conversations. But I also made clear I understood, like it or not, that current prohibitions on taxpayer funding for abortion services would apply to our agreement.

“But that’s not what this is—not at all.

“And I think that was made pretty clear when Republicans surprised us with this last-minute change in a press release—without inviting any Democrats to join. Because M. President—I believe—and I think most people would agree—that the massive expansions of restrictions on women’s access to safe, legal abortion that we see in this partisan bill have nothing to do with lowering families’ premiums or making health care work better in our country. That’s not something that was in our original deal that had bipartisan support—and it’s not something that should be in this bill now.

“M. President, I am extremely disappointed that we have reached this point—but that does not mean I am giving up on getting this done. I know many Republicans have said this is the end of the road for bipartisan negotiations on health care—but if it is, that’s only because they have chosen that route.

“Today I’m laying out what I hope Republicans and Democrats will ultimately be able to agree on. This is legislation that includes current-law prohibitions on taxpayer funding for abortion—what Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed was acceptable just months ago. It would take strong steps to lower premiums and make health care more affordable for patients. And it would uphold protections for people with pre-existing conditions, as so many Republicans and Democrats have said we should.

“M. President, we are frustratingly close to an agreement—and I still believe we can get there. This shouldn’t be about the blame game. It shouldn’t be about pointing fingers. It should be about getting a result. So I hope Republicans and Democrats will join me in supporting the amendment I am offering today—and that even if they don’t, I hope we can get back to the table and resume talks.

“I truly believe there are Republicans who want to do the right thing for patients and families—even if their leadership is determined to avoid a real debate and vote on a so-called ‘Obamacare bailout.’

“Our work last fall showed that we can reach agreement when we put aside partisan politics and focused on what’s best for families—and I’m ready to get back to work as soon as Republicans are.

“So, M. President, I ask unanimous consent that…”