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Senate GOP reveals Obamacare repeal bill but still lacks the votes

Thursday, June 22, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Susan Stout
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Senate GOP reveals Obamacare repeal bill but still lacks the votes

After weeks of work behind closed doors, the GOP released its plan and is now trying to find the votes to pass it.


Senate Republican leaders unveiled their long-secret plan to repeal Obamacare Thursday, formally kicking off the search for the 50 votes needed for passage amid stark party divisions.

Just hours after Republicans were briefed on the bill, four conservatives put out a statement saying they were withholding their support for the plan. A number of moderate GOP senators, meanwhile, said they were still poring through the the 142-page bill, which was crafted after weeks of work behind closed doors.

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The broad contours of the plan — which would tear down large parts of the 2010 health law, cap one of the nation’s biggest entitlement programs and overhaul one-sixth of the U.S. economy — have come into focus in recent days.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a vote as early as next Thursday, ahead of Congress’ July 4 recess and before more opposition can mount.

But the Kentucky Republican is still short the 50 votes he needs to pass the bill.

GOP Sens. Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee and Rand Paul said in a statement Thursday that they are "not ready" to support the measure, though they remained open to voting for it after further negotiations.

"It does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs," they said.

Cruz is pushing for an amendment to allow catastrophic, low premium plans, but it's not clear if the parliamentarian will allow them, according to Republicans.

Since Senate Democrats are unified in their resistance, Republicans are using a fast-track process that can evade filibusters. But they can only afford two defections and still maintain the thin majority needed to pass the repeal bill.

“The president said the Senate bill needed heart,” he said. “The way this bill cuts health care is heartless. The president said the House bill was mean. The Senate bill may be meaner.”

When asked if the Senate plan has enough heart at a White House event Thursday, President Donald Trump replied, “A little negotiation, but it's going to be very good.”

Former President Barack Obama blasted the Senate bill as a "massive transfer of wealth" that would skyrocket the cost of health care for poor and middle-class Americans.

"It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else," Obama wrote in a Facebook post. "Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm."

The Congressional Budget Office hasn't yet weighed in on how many fewer Americans are likely to be insured under the Republican plan, or answered the crucial political question of whether premiums would be reduced. That report is expected by early next week, setting up a sprint to gather votes ahead of a potential late-week vote.

The House bill, whose fundamental framework can be seen in the Senate plan, would leave 23 million fewer Americans insured over the next decade, according to CBO.

The Senate bill — blandly dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 — eliminates Obamacare’s mandates and hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes on the wealthy and the health industry. Notably, it doesn’t impose any new requirement that people purchase or maintain coverage — a major element that Republican leaders said they’re still working on.

The bill would also phase out Obamacare's Medicaid expansion over three years beginning in 2021 and make deep cuts to the long-term Medicaid program, while allowing states to impose work requirements on certain beneficiaries. It keeps the structure of Obamacare's insurance subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance, but tweaks them to cover only those making up to 350 percent of the federal poverty line — down from the 400 percent covered under Obamacare.