Sen. John McCain is back in the spotlight on health care. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The uncertainty surrounding Senate Republicans' latest repeal-and-replace bill is putting more pressure on Democrats to reach a deal to stabilize the Affordable Care Act.

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have been working on a plan to tweak the ACA through a mix of looser regulations and more reliable funding. And Alexander's hand in those talks may be getting stronger as a side effect of the momentum behind a repeal bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy.

Why: Sens. Lisa Murkowski and John McCain are publicly rooting for the stabilization effort to succeed, and Graham-Cassidy can't pass without at least one of them.

  • Murkowski has actively participated in the four hearings the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has held on stabilization, often staying longer than most other members.
  • On Sunday, McCain mentioned this effort by name on Face the Nation, saying Republicans shouldn't "ram" their proposal through.

The problem: While Democrats say the negotiations are going well and weekend talks were "productive," per a Democratic aide, Republicans disagree. "There's no deal, and one doesn't look imminent. If there's no deal, I assume that means Republicans are going to flock to the only thing that's on the table," a senior GOP aide told me.

Yes, but: McCain and Murkowski could vote against Cassidy-Graham-Heller-Johnson regardless. Both their states stand to lose under the bill, according to an early analysis by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But it seems that if what they've been calling for all along is within reach, it gives them a lot more of an excuse to vote against a GOP-only bill.

Who we're watching: Murray. If she can strike a deal with Alexander — which hinges on giving states more flexibility through innovation waivers — it could deeply influence McCain and Murkowski's decision.

Go deeper

Trump signs bill to prevent government shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and President Trump arrives at the U.S. Capitol in March. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Trump signed a bill to extend current levels of government funding into early December, White House spokesperson Judd Deere confirmed early Thursday.

Driving the news: The Senate on Tuesday passed the legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10. The move averts a government shutdown before the Nov. 3 election, though funding did expire briefly before the bill was signed.

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

Updated 35 mins ago - Science

In photos: Deadly wildfires devastate California's wine country

The Shady Fire ravages a home as it approaches Santa Rosa in Napa County, California, on Sept. 28. The blaze is part of the massive Glass Fire Complex, which has razed over 51,620 acres at 2% containment. Photo: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1700 firefighters are battling 26 major blazes across California, including in the heart of the wine country, where one mega-blaze claimed the lives of three people and forced thousands of others to evacuate this week.

The big picture: More than 8,100 wildfires have burned across a record 39 million-plus acres, killing 29 people and razing almost 7,900 structures in California this year, per Cal Fire. Just like the deadly blazes of 2017, the wine country has become a wildfires epicenter. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta counties.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 33,880,896 — Total deaths: 1,012,964 — Total recoveries: 23,551,663Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 7,232,823 — Total deaths: 206,887 — Total recoveries: 2,840,688 — Total tests: 103,939,667Map.
  3. Education: School-aged children now make up 10% of all U.S COVID-19 cases.
  4. Health: Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine won't be ready until 2021
  5. Travel: CDC: 3,689 COVID-19 or coronavirus-like cases found on cruise ships in U.S. waters — Airlines begin mass layoffs while clinging to hope for federal aid
  6. Business: Real-time data show economy's rebound slowing but still going.
  7. Sports: Steelers-Titans NFL game delayed after coronavirus outbreak.

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