Senate Republicans Just Killed Their Health Care Bill Again
WASHINGTON — Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) announced Monday they will not be supporting the latest version of the Senate health care bill — diminishing its chances of passage in its current form.
WASHINGTON — Two conservative senators on Monday evening announced their opposition to the Senate Republican health care bill, dealing a serious and possibly crippling blow to the GOP’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) announced Monday they intended to vote no on the “motion to proceed” ― a procedural step necessary to begin formal debate on legislation and, eventually, to pass it.
“There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it,” Moran said in a statement. “This closed-door process has yielded the [Better Care Reconciliation Act], which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs. For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one.”
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” he added.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Thursday they wouldn’t vote for the bill in its current form, and more than a half-dozen other Republicans have said they have “serious concerns.”
The Senate can afford to lose only two Republican votes on the bill, presuming that all Democrats will vote against it. With four GOP senators now joining all Democrats in opposition, Republicans, who have 52 seats in the upper chamber, are at least two votes short of the 50 needed to begin debate and then pass the bill ― halting, at least temporarily, their plans to pass legislation.
Lee said that he could not support the GOP bill, at least in its present form, because it did not do enough to dismantle the Affordable Care Act’s regulations on health insurance ― and because, in the process of modifying the bill, Senate leaders had decided to retain some of the new taxes that the 2010 health care law put in place.
“In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations,” he said.
The regulations Lee has in mind are the ones guaranteeing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and requiring that all plans include a comprehensive set of benefits ― regulations that have made coverage available to people who could not get it before but have also raised premiums and forced some people to pay more for their insurance than they did previously.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can continue trying to win over the holdouts by offering to change the bill ― something he has been trying to do, with middling success, for the last few weeks.
But the opposition of Lee, in particular, suggests that McConnell’s task will be even more difficult than it seemed just a day ago.
In the last round of revisions, McConnell incorporated a major amendment from another conservative Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). A goal of adding that amendment, which would have weakened those same insurance regulations, was to woo conservatives unhappy that earlier versions of repeal legislation left too much “Obamacare” in place.
It was widely assumed that McConnell’s strategy was to do something like House Republican leaders did in May, when they finally passed their legislation: shore up support among conservatives, then win over enough moderates to assemble a majority.
If the Cruz amendment isn’t enough to satisfy Lee, then the only way to gain his support (and perhaps Moran’s support as well) would be to weaken those regulations even more.
That would almost certainly alienate less-conservative members of the GOP caucus, many of whom have already warned that the bill takes away coverage from too many people. When the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office examined a previous version of the bill, it predicted that the number of people without insurance would rise by 22 million ― and that, overall, people with insurance would end up with less generous coverage.
It also doesn’t help that the regulations Lee wants to eliminate happen to be highly popular ― or that high-ranking Republicans, including President Donald Trump, pledged repeatedly to keep those insurance protections in place.
Before Moran and Lee came out against the bill, McConnell delayed a vote on the legislation again after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he would not be able to vote this week while recovering from surgery.
Republicans have struggled to pass a health care bill, so far failing to deliver on a much-hyped 2016 campaign promise that the GOP would repeal Obamacare.
Trump has repeatedly pressed Republicans to pass legislation. He even hosted GOP senators at a dinner at the White House on Monday in an attempt to discuss the bill with lawmakers who were on the fence about whether to vote for the legislation.
Earlier Monday, Trump emphasized how crucial McCain’s vote would have been to passing the bill.
“We hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him,” Trump said at an event Monday. “He’s a crusty voice in Washington. Plus, we need his vote.”
Protests against the bill have been a regular sight on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, with many demonstrators being placed under arrest.
This story has been updated with additional details throughout.
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