House Speaker Paul Ryan told staff Tuesday that he wasn’t part of the deal that Sen. Susan Collins obtained from Senate Republican leaders to secure her support for a tax reform bill being negotiated between the two bodies of Congress.
According to a report in The Hill, the Wisconsin Republican said he had not given the same commitment to Collins that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, made to support bipartisan bills aimed at shoring up the Affordable Care Act.
The online political news site reported that Ryan said he had not agreed to support a pair of Senate bills, one co-sponsored by Collins and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, that would set up a reinsurance pool to cover costs for the sickest Americans as a way to drive down health insurance premiums for others paying for their own insurance.
Another bill sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, would continue to fund key payments to insurance companies for the next two years in exchange for more flexibility in how states administer the ACA.
‘VERY CONFIDENT IN THE AGREEMENTS’
Collins has said McConnell’s support for both bills was key to her vote early Saturday to support a federal tax reform package that cleared the Senate.
“Having secured these key improvements in the bill, as well as the commitments to legislation to help lower health insurance premiums, I will cast my vote in support of the Senate tax reform bill,” Collins said in a prepared statement before the vote Friday. “As revised, this bill will provide much-needed tax relief and simplification for lower- and middle-income families, while spurring the creation of good jobs and greater economic growth.”
Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Collins, said Tuesday that the senator was “very confident” in her agreement with McConnell, which was put in writing and signed by McConnell and entered into the Senate’s official record. Clark said that agreement and one with President Trump that the two health care bills would be passed as part of a second continuing resolution to keep the federal government open were solid and Collins is not concerned about Ryan’s statements.
“We are very confident in the agreements we have,” Clark said.
‘BEST WAY FORWARD’ IS UNCLEAR
But Republican leaders in the House were unclear Tuesday about whether they would support the changes that Collins secured in the Senate.
Negotiations on the tax reform bill only started in earnest Monday and lawmakers have less than three weeks to decide their positions if Congress hopes to pass the bill into law by the end of the year. While Ryan said he wasn’t part of Collins’ deal with McConnell, he also did not say he opposes the deal.
“Well, of course, I think (repealing the individual mandate is) the best way we can go, but we’re going to have continued discussions with our members here in the House and across the aisle about the best way forward,” Ryan said, according to The Hill. “We think health care is deteriorating. We think premiums are going up through the roof, insurers are pulling out and that’s not a status quo we can live with.”
Beyond Ryan, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, a leader in the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said the Alexander-Murray bill could not pass the House, according to The Hill’s report.
“The package that’s put together today is just not sufficient to get the votes,” Cole said. “You will not get the votes here.”
Clark, Collins’ spokeswoman, agreed with Ryan’s comments about soaring health insurance premiums under the ACA, but said without the passage of the two bills that Collins says Trump and McConnell both support, premiums will continue to “skyrocket.”
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