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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

McConnell DELAYS Health Care VOTE in Face of GOP Defections

In an embarrassing setback, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he will bow to pressure from his own ranks and postpone a vote on the GOP health care bill until after the July 4 recess.
“We will not be on the bill this week, but we’re still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place,” Mr. McConnell told reporters after conceding defeat in a closed-door Republican luncheon with Vice President Mike Pence.
The Kentucky Republican and his chief aides wanted to pass their Obamacare replacement before the weekend, yet they faced a revolt from both ends of their party.
Conservatives said the bill preserved Obamacare instead of repealing it, while moderates said the bill was too harsh on older Americans and states that vastly expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor.
Others said they simply didn’t want to rush a bill that would affect about a sixth of the U.S. economy.
“It’s a complicated subject,” Mr. McConnell said.
The effort was complicated Monday by a Congressional Budget Office analysis that projected 22 million people would lose health insurance as a result of the Senate bill, which prompted a rapid erosion of support.
Tuesday’s decision to delay the vote open the door for Senate Republicans to take a firm line against the current draft.
“The Senate draft before us includes some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual insurance market, but I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic,” Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, said.
Even Republicans who weren’t considered to be key holdouts said the bill was lacking.
“The Senate health care bill missed the mark for Kansans and therefore did not have my support. I am pleased with the decision to delay the vote — now is the time to take a step back and put the full legislative process to work,” Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican, said.
At least a half dozen additional Senate Republicans had already said they would oppose the bill unless it’s rewritten.
Mr. Pence exited the meeting without replying to shouted questions about the delay, though senior Republicans said Obamacare is failing no matter what, so they will reach for a solution this summer.
“We’re going to press on. We think the status quo is unsustainable,” Mr. McConnell said.
Still, the U-turn is an embarrassing setback for SenateGOP leaders who only hours earlier said they would plow ahead and find a way to succeed.
Ultimately, trying to jam the bill through became untenable, after at least five GOP senators said they wouldn’t support a motion to take up the bill unless it was rewritten.
Democrats said the delay validated their resistance.
“Delaying the Trumpcare vote shows Republicans are feeling the heat from their constituents, and now we must continue to pour on the pressure,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
Still searching for a major legislative win, President Trump is starting to assume a bigger role in the talks.
He invited the entire Senate Republican conference to a White House meeting later Tuesday, looking for a way forward for the bill.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare before Congress’s August recess is a top priority for Mr. Trump and Republicans.
Outside pressure groups said the Senate plan left too much of Obamacare intact, however, even as conservatives relied on GOP senators to dismantle the 2010 law further than a House bill passed in May.
“Only in Washington does repeal translate to restore. Because that’s exactly what the SenateGOP health care bill does: it restores Obamacare,” said David McIntosh, president of the free-market Club for Growth. “And while it’s hard to imagine, in some ways the Senate’s legislation would make our nation’s failing health care system worse.”
Senate Republicans can suffer two defections from their 52-seat majority and still pass the bill under fast-track budget rules that avoids a filibuster by Democrats, who are unanimously oppose to repeal.
Following Mr. McConnell’s announcement, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer renewed his call for bipartisan negotiations on health care, starting with efforts to bring down prescription drug costs.
He also pitched ideas that Republicans have rejected, including a government-run plan, or “public option,” to compete with private plans and a permanent extension of “cost-sharing” payments to reimburse insurers who pick up low-income customers’ costs.
For now, Mr. Schumer is crediting outside groups for forcing Republicans to delay the bill, which he characterized as a tax cut for wealthy Americans and a bad deal for struggling ones.
“The core of their bill is so so out of touch with what the average American, even the average Republican, wants,” he said.

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