Revised Senate health-care bill still lacks the votes to pass – Washington Post
But within hours, it was clear that Senate leaders still didn’t have the votes to fulfill their long-standing quest to replace former president Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law.
The new draft would lift many of the ACA’s regulatory requirements, allowing insurers to offer bare-bones policies without coverage for services such as preventive or mental-health care. It would also direct billions of dollars to help lower- and middle-income Americans buy plans on the private market.
However, the draft leaves in place deep proposed cuts to Medicaid — and at least three Republicans quickly signaled opposition to the bill, casting doubt on McConnell’s plans to pass the bill next week.
“The revised Senate health-care bill released today does not include the measures I have been advocating for on behalf of the people of Arizona,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a statement, adding he planned to offer amendments to change it.
The GOP’s continuing push — and continuing struggle — to make good on a campaign promise it began invoking seven years ago to “repeal and replace” Obamacare reflected the peril Republicans face whether they pass a bill or not.
On the one hand, the ACA has provided medical coverage for millions of Americans — and has grown more popular as a result. Moderate Republicans remained concerned Thursday that the new proposal would make insurance unaffordable for some middle-income Americans and throw millions off the rolls of Medicaid, the public insurance for disabled and low-income Americans.
Yet conservatives continued to push for a more wholesale rollback of the ACA — highlighting the danger for all Republicans of failing to achieve a promise most of them made on the campaign trail.
“The new Senate health care bill is substantially different from the version released last month, and it is unclear to me whether it has improved,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a conservative who has pushed for a full Obamacare repeal, said in a statement. “I will need time to study the new version and speak with experts about whether it does enough to lower health insurance premiums for middle class families.”
Looming even larger was the reality that Republicans, despite their control of both chambers of Congress and with President Trump in the White House, have made little progress on an ambitious agenda that McConnell had hoped to move on to next week after a vote on the health-care bill. Among their goals are major tax legislation, raising the debt ceiling and passing a defense authorization bill.
Republican leaders seemed to acknowledge Thursday the difficult path ahead, with several speaking privately about internal divisions on how to pass the bill — and to prevent further defections.
“We will have the votes when we start voting,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.).
McConnell’s new draft was the result of weeks of negotiations with conservatives and moderates. For those on the right, the plan incorporated a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) allowing insurers to offer minimalist policies as long as they offer more-comprehensive ones as well. Cruz said the provision would give consumers greater choice and lower-cost premiums.
For those in the center, the new proposal would spend an additional $70 billion offsetting consumers’ costs and $45 billion to treat opioid addiction.
Republicans financed these changes by keeping a trio of Obamacare taxes targeting high earners — a 3.8 percent tax on net investment income and a 0.9 percent Medicare payroll tax on individuals making $200,000 a year or couples earning $250,000, along with a tax on insurers with high-paid executives. Lawmakers such as Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said repealing those taxes would give too much relief to the wealthy at the expense of the poor.
The new measure has won Cruz’s backing, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another conservative who said the measure still does not do enough to unravel Obamacare, remained opposed to voting on the bill, as did centrist Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“My strong intention and current inclination is to vote no on the motion to proceed,” Collins told reporters, referring to the procedural vote required before the legislation can reach the Senate floor. Collins added that she hopes Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) will be willing to work with Republicans to fix the legislation. “I have had numerous Democrats come to me and say they want to work with us on the bill,” she said. “I’m going to take them at their word.”
Even as McConnell negotiated with individual members, the outlook for the bill was complicated when Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) debuted an alternative proposal.
In a joint interview with CNN on Thursday, Cassidy and Graham said they would take the billions of dollars the federal government now receives in taxes under the ACA and direct that revenue to the states.
The plan did not appear to be gaining traction — Graham said he would vote to start debate on McConnell’s bill — but its introduction underscored the extent to which a growing number of GOP senators have started looking beyond the current effort, with diminishing confidence that it will prevail.