Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut’s U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal said there will be political consequences for their Republican colleagues if they continue to try and dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“Republicans are clearly in a box,” Murphy said at a Legislative Office Building press conference. “They have spent six years trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and now they’re like the dog that’s caught the car.”

He said they’ve gotten to the moment where they have the votes and are realizing how hard it is and how “politically devastating it will be to their party if they do it.”

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said “There’s nothing like two Democrats passing a bill that’s been disaster for the average middle class family trying not to take credit for it.”

Romano, who buys his own insurance through the exchange, said for those who are using it, “it’s a terrible law.”

Then why not just fix it?

Murphy and Blumenthal said they would be happy to work with their Republican colleagues on improving the Affordable Care Act.

But Murphy acknowledged it will be politically difficult for Republicans to turn around and work with Democrats after spending years criticizing the Affordable Care Act.

However, if they don’t work with Democrats on a replacement there will be “humongous moral and political consequences to them,” Murphy said.

And while most of the focus at the moment is on these “secret” negotiations within the Senate on a revised version of the House bill, Murphy reminded reporters Friday that Republicans are working to undermine the current system by refusing to say whether they will continue the cost sharing reduction payments to health insurance companies participating in exchanges.

“There’s a two tier approach to repealing the Affordable Care Act: They are trying to repeal it legislatively and then Republicans are also trying to undermine it administratively so that the Affordable Care Act dies of its own momentum,” Murphy said.

Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare, the last two companies participating in Connecticut’s insurance exchange, warned in May that they would have to reconsider their participation if the cost sharing reductions were eliminated.

Murphy said he can’t blame them.

“If I were an insurance company, I don’t know that I’d stick around if my subsidies were being bled out on a month-by-month basis,” Murphy said.

He said if Republicans think former President Barack Obama is going to get blamed for the weakening of the exchanges, “they’re not giving the American public enough credit.”

Blumenthal said the insurance companies have failed to hold Republican President Donald Trump accountable.

“They have failed to be as vocal as they can and should be,” Blumenthal said. “They should be out front. They’ve been missing in action.”

Romano said it’s hard to work with two Connecticut Senators who have been “organizing a resistance” since Trump was elected last November.

Blumenthal said Republicans may have pulled off the greatest “bait and switch” in American politics. He said they made promises on the campaign trail that they knew they couldn’t keep.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated earlier this week that the American Health Care Act passed on May 4 by a small margin would leave 23 million more people without health insurance than under current law and would cut the deficit by $119 billion over 10 years.

“Here’s the tragic irony. As hard as Connecticut is hit by this Republican plan, the hardest hit states are the ones that voted for President Trump,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said Connecticut residents ages 55-64 will see $10,000 to $14,000 increases in their insurance premiums under the American Health Care Act.

Connecticut’s state budget, which receives about $8 billion in Medicaid funding from the federal government, will also take a hit if the Republican bill passes.

“This will be billions of dollars in cuts to federal health care funding to Connecticut,” Murphy said.

“States will be left holding the bag and state budgets will blow up,” he added.