Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander has backed off his demands to add health insurance subsidies for low-income Americans to a year-end spending bill.
Alexander was the co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would fund subsidies to insurance companies that offer plans on the marketplace. Another bill addressing Obamacare was co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Alexander and Collins were expecting to link their proposals to Congress's massive spending bill. But they issued a joint statement saying Congress will be able to pass only a short-term agreement to avoid a government shutdown, meaning their proposals will have to wait until January.
Both bills are intended to stabilize health insurance markets after the repeal of the mandate that requires everyone to purchase insurance.
Alexander said less than a week ago that he expected his bipartisan legislation to pass immediately after the tax bill and offset any negative effects of eliminating the individual mandate. He released a statement Wednesday afternoon after approving the tax bill, saying his "Christmas present" of lower health insurance premiums will now have to be a "Valentine’s Day present."
"It is hard to add our bills to a year-end package that does not yet exist," Alexander said. "I am grateful to Sen. Collins for her strong and steady leadership and to the 22 other Senate Democrats and Republicans who have co-sponsored legislation to help drive down these intolerable insurance premium increases."