- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on efforts in Congress to repeal the health care law and agree on a spending bill to keep the government open (all times local):

11:30 p.m.

Republicans controlling the House have unveiled a stopgap bill to keep the government open past a shutdown deadline of midnight Friday.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen says the one-week measure would buy time to wrap up talks on a $1 trillion-plus catchall spending bill that’s the center of bipartisan talks on Capitol Hill. He says those negotiations are going well.

The temporary bill is likely to come to a House vote Friday in the expectation the Senate would immediately send it to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Talks on the larger spending bill have progressed in fits and starts, with the Trump White House backing away from demands that it include money to begin construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border - though other stumbling blocks remain.


4:21 p.m.

The White House has assured lawmakers it will continue making payments to insurers under Democrat Barack Obama’s health care law.

That’s a reversal for President Donald Trump who had threatened to withhold the money.

Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a senior administration official confirmed the move, which could both provide stability to the individual insurance market and remove the issue as a stumbling block to bipartisan negotiations over a government-wide spending bill to keep agencies open.

The current spending bill expires at midnight on Friday.

The so-called cost-sharing payments help lower-income people with out-of-pocket medical expenses, but Trump had threatened to withhold them as leverage. That sparked a fierce backlash among Democrats such as Pelosi, who responded with a threat to bring down the spending bill if the threat were carried out.

Pelosi and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney spared over the issue in back-and-forth statements on Wednesday.


2 p.m.

A leader of House Republican moderates is suggesting a proposal to revamp the mired GOP health care bill shows that conservatives are trying to shift blame for the legislation’s problems to party centrists.

Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Charlie Dent also says he believes that moderates who have opposed the Republican health overhaul haven’t changed their minds, despite proposed changes.

Dent is a leader of the moderate House Tuesday Group, which has about 50 members.

Another head of that group is New Jersey GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur. He has negotiated a plan with a conservative leader, North Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Meadows, to let states get exemptions to insurance coverage requirements under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Many conservatives are endorsing that proposal. Dent calls it “an exercise in blame-shifting.”


1:45 p.m.

The top House Democrat is accusing the Trump administration of “cruelly threatening to raise health premiums” for millions as a disagreement about payments to insurers under the health care law jolted talks on a bill to keep the government open.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also said Wednesday that it was incumbent upon Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, to avert a shutdown. The current spending bill expires at midnight on Friday.

Pelosi issued a statement a day after meeting with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. Pelosi called the former congressman “the chief architect of the government shutdown in 2013,” and highlighted his past votes against spending bills and raising the nation’s borrowing authority.

Pelosi and Republicans are wrestling over a Democratic demand that the must-pass spending bill keep money flowing under the health care law that helps low-earners pay out-of-pocket medical costs.


1:42 p.m.

Groups representing more than a half million clinicians are writing Congress opposing compromises to rescue the troubled GOP health care bill.

Doctors say the recent compromises among Republican hardliners and party moderates would allow insurers to deny treatment to patients struggling with addiction and make health care more expensive for older adults. The compromise would let states opt out of requirements in the Obama-era health care law.

Wednesday’s letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California was signed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Psychiatric Association.

The groups say Congress should work to improve the health system.


1:35 p.m.

The latest Republican health care proposal would exempt members of Congress and their staff if states opt out of providing basic services like maternity and newborn care, wellness visits and prescription drugs.

The plan to revive the overall health care bill is a measure from Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., a leader of the moderate House Tuesday Group along with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. It also has the backing of Vice President Mike Pence.

Under the plan, states could get federal waivers to the current law’s requirements that insurers charge seriously ill and healthy customers the same premiums, and that they cover specified services like maternity care.

In a statement Wednesday, MacArthur’s office says the congressman doesn’t believe lawmakers should get special treatment and they are working on separate legislation to address it.


1:05 p.m.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus is backing the latest health care proposal as the White House tries to revive efforts to repeal Democrat Barack Obama’s law.

In a statement on Wednesday, the 40 or so hard-liner members who helped scuttle the earlier bill announced their support for the plan crafted by New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur, a moderate, and North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, head of the House Freedom Caucus.

While the endorsement is a boost for the effort, some 50 moderate Republicans are still uncertain or oppose to the latest plan.

The group said the new proposal will give states flexibility - and while it isn’t a full repeal of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, they are prepared to support it.

The proposed changes would let states get federal waivers to some coverage requirements Obama’s law imposed on insurers, such as providing basic services such as maternity and newborn care, and preventive and wellness visits.


12:15 p.m.

The White House says Democrats are “holding the government hostage” by insisting that a government-wide spending bill include a guarantee that payments continue to flow under the Obama health care law to help low-income beneficiaries with out-of-pocket costs.

Budget director Mick Mulvaney said in a statement that Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are the only ones “standing in the way of a landmark defense and border security bill.”

Pelosi is insisting that the cost-sharing payments be addressed in the legislation. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut them off as a negotiating chip and Mulvaney won’t guarantee that they will continue to flow as the GOP-controlled Congress debates health care.


11:25 a.m.

Coal-state lawmakers say Congress is close to a deal to extend health benefits for more than 22,000 retired miners and widows whose medical coverage is set to expire Sunday.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Wednesday that a “permanent” fix will be included in a Senate measure to keep the government open. The fix would cost $1.3 billion over 10 years.

West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito also was confident the Senate would approve the plan and noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky supports it.

House Republican leaders have been pushing a 20-month health care extension, but Capito and Manchin said they were optimistic House Speaker Paul Ryan would agree to a long-term fix.

The plan does not address pension benefits for unionized miners.


10:45 a.m.

Negotiations on a $1 trillion-plus catchall spending bill have hit a snag over former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

GOP Speaker Paul Ryan and top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi are at odds over a demand by Democrats to use the must-do measure to guarantee that payments continue to flow under the health care law to help low-income beneficiaries with out-of-pocket costs.

Pelosi is insisting the those cost-sharing payments be addressed in the legislation, a demand she made after President Donald Trump threatened to cut them off as a negotiating chip. Aides said Pelosi and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney sparred over the payments in a Tuesday phone call.

Pelosi wants the payments addressed in the catchall spending bill but Ryan told reporters Wednesday that “we’re not doing that.”


10:30 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says the latest Republican effort to scuttle the health care law is winning support, but he stopped short of promising a vote anytime soon.

Ryan told reporters on Wednesday that a proposal that would allow states to get federal waivers to ignore certain coverage requirements, helps secure consensus.

Republicans had been forced to pull their initial bill to repeal the law due to divisions among Republicans.

Ryan said, “We’ll vote on it when we get the votes.” Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas said the House will vote on a spending bill to keep the government open, but not health care this week.


3:30 a.m.

Leading House conservatives are saying good things about a plan to revive the GOP health care bill. But an influential GOP House moderate is opposing the proposal, leaving party leaders to assess whether the idea could help one of President Donald Trump’s premier but most problematic priorities spring back to life.

Republican lawmakers were meeting Wednesday to consider how to rescue the GOP drive to repeal much of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

That salvage effort comes as bipartisan bargainers edge toward agreement on a separate $1 trillion budget bill that would prevent a partial federal shutdown this Saturday. While erasing Obama’s statute is solidly opposed by Democrats, the budget measure will need support from both parties because GOP conservatives often oppose spending legislation.

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