Almost eight months after President Donald Trump took office and promised to immediately repeal Obamacare, Republican senators are instead developing a small package of changes to help the health law rather than end it.

Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican taking the lead on some of the efforts, said he wants an Obamacare package to include money for insurers to defray low-income Americans’ health costs, as well as flexibility for states to decide how they cover their citizens under the law.

“This hearing is about taking one small step, a small step on a big issue which has been locked in partisan stalemate for seven years,” Alexander said Wednesday at a hearing by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, of which he is chairman.

The new, more modest plan is a sharp change of direction after Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed earlier this summer. In another shift, GOP and Democratic lawmakers have pledged to work together on the changes and appeared during the hearing to be prepared to iron out any differences.

Alexander said that members of both parties will have to agree to proposals they might not be comfortable with.

“Democrats will have to agree to something -- more flexibility for states -- that some are reluctant to support. And Republicans will have to agree to something -- additional funding through the Affordable Care Act -- that some are reluctant to support,” he said.


The Senate just returned from its summer break and is convening a series of hearings on the Affordable Care Act, and Alexander said his hope is to pass a bill by the end of the month.

Separately, a last-ditch GOP effort to move an ACA replacement gained a major boost Wednesday when Senator John McCain, one of three Republican votes against repealing Obamacare in July, told reporters he supports the measure proposed by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The repeal proposal, which focuses on doling out Obamacare funding to states to use as they see fit, faces a deadline on Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Many other pressing matters -- such as debate over tax reform, immigration, and investigations into the Trump administration and the election -- could become obstacles.

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