With a Senate vote fast approaching on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, attention is centering on Alaska’s rising-star Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Everyone, including President Donald Trump, wants to win her over.
Murkowski was one of 13 Republican senators to get an invite to lunch at the White House today to discuss the health care bill, which could be voted very soon. Murkowski was seated right next to the commander in chief, but her body language suggested she would’ve rather been anywhere else.
Political Twitter soon took notice of her uncomfortable posture, and a few liberal outlets gave the moderate Republican kudos for registering what looked like revulsion at Trump’s attention. If you want to really dissect her body language, Murkowski looks more stressed and uncomfortable than anything else with the whole situation.
Either way, Murkowski shrinking into her seat was in stark contrast to Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who sat on Trump’s other side. Ernst looked positively enthralled to be in the president’s presence throughout the video.
Murkowski is among the critical must-have votes to get the health care bill out of the Senate. She’s already laid out a number of positions that seem incompatible with the House version of the bill. There’s speculation what the Senate is drafting behind closed doors could look close to the House version. Earlier this year Murkowski said she wouldn’t vote for a bill that took away coverage from Alaska’s Medicaid expansion population, did away with coverage for preexisting conditions or defunded Planned Parenthood.
There’s been plenty of speculation about what it would take to win Murkowski over while not losing the House’s far right. Some reports suggest a slower repeal of Medicaid expansion may be enough to win over moderates, but Murkowski has yet to sound off on such a plan.
Trump perhaps hoped his charm would help. In front of the cameras, he spoke specifically about Alaska’s insurance premiums.
“I hate to say this to you, Lisa, but in Alaska they’ve gone up 207 percent under Obamacare,” he said while reading from a list of premium increases.
Of course, under the American Health Care Act that passed the House a 60-year-old person with $50,000 of income buying health insurance on the Obamacare marketplace would see her rates rise more than 500 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
With the highest health care costs in the country, Alaska stands to lose the most under proposals that would remove the geographic differential from subsidies and the proposals to turn Medicaid into a block grant or per capita program.
Murkowski could have great say to at least win some sort of exemption or carve out that keeps Alaska’s health care costs somewhat under control during the repeal.
Her press office currently doesn’t have any news to share on the bill.
Trump did say, however, that “we may be adding additional money” to the Senate bill, which he called “generous, kind and with heart.”
Could that mean there’s something in there to help Alaska? Given the enormous secrecy revolving around the bill’s drafting, the likelihood it won’t get a hearing before a vote and the legislation’s incredible unpopularity, we’ll probably–in the infamous words of Nancy Pelosi–“have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
AARP launches campaign targeting Murkowski
The lunch coincides with the launch pro-Obamacare ad campaigns backed by national groups targeting Murkowski. The AARP launched a stock television ad with Murkowski’s information at the end of the video. A group called Save My Care has also launched a radio campaign that includes numbers specific to Alaska, claiming some 63,000 Alaskans would lose insurance under the bill.
See and hear both below: