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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

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

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