Senate anticipates seeing revised health care bill Thursday
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t yet have the necessary support to pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in his chamber, he announced Tuesday that he expects to begin voting next week on a revised bill, the text of which senators are supposed to see Thursday.
“We’ll be on health care next week,” McConnell said after meeting with his conference and Vice President Mike Pence to talk, in broad strokes, about changes to the legislation.
But the changes discussed were not enough to assuage Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who remains opposed to the bill.
“Based on what I heard, it looks like the bill has largely been tweaked rather than overhauled and I was hoping for an overhaul,” she told reporters Tuesday.
McConnell has convened his conference for an all-senator meeting Thursday morning where he is expected to roll out the changes to the bill, which he originally pulled from the floor at the end of June.
But senators have said they’ve been told the bill contains an additional $45 billion in funding for opioid addiction treatment, a particularly important priority for Collins and other holdouts like Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., whose states have been particularly hard-hit by the epidemic.
But it’s still not enough to get moderate senators like those on board.
The other wing of the party, represented by conservatives like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., also has structural issues with the bill. Paul penned an op-ed saying that the provisions in the Republican bill that would shore up the insurance industry, in order to help them keep poor and sick people on their rolls, are in fact the opposite of repealing Obamacare.
“Shame. Shame on many in the GOP for promising repeal and instead affirming, keeping, and, in some cases, expanding Obamacare. What a shame,” he wrote for the far-right website Breitbart.
The conservatives are rallying behind a proposal spearheaded by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow insurers to offer bare-bones plans in states as long as they offer at least one plan that abides by the requirements imposed by Obamacare, including covering a list of essential health benefits. But that amendment could turn off moderates.
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has long advocated simply waiting for the Affordable Care Act to collapse and then working on a bipartisan fix, told reporters Tuesday that he is working on a new approach that “may actually work” and in fact attract Democrats, saying more details about his plan would emerge in the next few days.
But McConnell is still moving full steam ahead on his bill, saying he expects the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to provide its budgetary analysis, known as its “score,” early next week. The CBO score of the original bill estimated that 22 million more people would be uninsured under the Republican health care plan over 10 years than under current law.
The leader also announced Tuesday that he would keep his chamber in session for an extra two weeks in August, although he has insisted that the bonus time will be used for other must-pass legislation, including a defense spending bill and one to raise the debt limit.
But the Senate still has a full workload in changing its health care bill enough to get 50 “yes” votes.
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