Senate Republicans face key week as more senators waver in their support for health care bill – Washington Post

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Senate Republicans and the White House are facing down an increasingly daunting challenge to secure the votes necessary to pass legislation before the July 4 congressional recess that would make dramatic changes to President Obama’s signature health care law.

At least five Republicans have already come out against their party’s bill — which can only afford to lose two votes — and over the weekend more began expressing serious reservations and skepticism about the proposal, saying they would like more time to debate and tweak the plan.

A key moment will arrive early this week when the Congressional Budget Office releases an analysis of the bill estimating how many people could lose coverage under the Republican plan, what impact it might have on insurance premiums and how much money it could save the government.

The stalled Republican effort to pass a sweeping rewrite of the Affordable Care Act was further threatened Sunday when Republican senators from opposite sides of the party’s ideological spectrum voiced their disapproval, imperiling hopes for a Senate vote this week and President Trump’s desire to fulfill a core campaign pledge. 

The mounting dissatisfaction leaves the White House and Senate Republican leaders in a difficult position. In the coming days, moves to narrow the scope of the overhaul could appeal to moderates but anger conservatives, who believe the legislation does not go far enough to repeal and replace Obamacare. 

What the Senate bill changes about Obamacare

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Sunday expressed deep concerns about how the bill would cut expanded Medicaid funding for states, a key pillar of the Affordable Care Act that several centrists in the Senate are wary of rolling back, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that she worries about “what it means to our most vulnerable citizens.”

Collins also said she is concerned about the bill’s impact on the cost of insurance premiums and deductibles, especially for older Americans. 

“I’m going to look at the whole bill before making a decision,” she said, later adding, “it’s hard for me to see the bill passing this week.”

Underscoring the challenge facing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), speaking on the same Sunday show, also voiced concerns with the bill — but for entirely different reasons.

Paul — who, along with fellow Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Mike Lee of Utah have already said they cannot support the current bill — rejected the Republican plan for not being more fiscally austere, but said that in the face of an impasse, he could support legislation that simply repeals Obama’s health care law.

“I’ve been telling leadership for months now I’ll vote for a repeal,” Paul said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And it doesn’t have to be a 100 percent repeal. So, for example, I’m for 100 percent repeal, that’s what I want. But if you me 90 percent repeal, I’d probably vote for it. I might vote for 80 percent repeal.”

But simply repealing Obamacare or large parts of the law without making any other changes to the nation’s health care system is not a realistic political possibility at the moment.

McConnell and his team remain convinced they must call a vote soon to avoid having health-care discussions dominate the summer, when they aim to move on to tax reform legislation. In their circle, further talks are also seen as an opening for others to bolt.

“It’s not going to get any easier,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters on the sidelines of a three-day seminar organized by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch in Colorado Springs. “And yes, I think August is the drop deadline, about August 1st.”

As senators took to the airwaves Sunday, there were developments behind the scenes as GOP leaders made calls and worked to cobble together votes. But no firm decisions on changes were made.

There was new talk among key GOP figures about winning over moderates by altering the bill’s Medicaid changes, according to two people involved who would not speak publicly. By tweaking how federal funding is determined for Medicaid recipients and linking aspects to the medical component of the consumer price index, there is a belief that some moderates could be swayed, since they want assurances of funding should the cost of care rise, the people said.

Then would come the tightrope: If some senators can be convinced to support revisions to the Medicaid portion of the bill, several conservatives are warning that unless their amendments are included, they are unlikely to support the legislation. The hope is that there is a combination of those Medicaid changes and amendments from conservatives that could pave way to passage.

Progress in these conversations could postpone a vote for a couple weeks until after July 4 holiday, the people said, but Senate leadership and the White House want to move this week if they can.

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