Senate Health Bill Still Short On 'Yays' But Leaders Vow Vote Next Week

Kaiser Health News, July 14, 2017

One more “no” vote would stop the bill in its tracks, even with a potential tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

McConnell's Health Bill

This article first appeared July 13, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Julie Rovner

Senate Republican leaders Thursday released their revised bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, but they acknowledged that furious days of negotiation have not yet secured the 50 votes necessary to pass the measure over unanimous Democratic objections.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) the No. 2 GOP leader, told reporters that while backers of the measure did not yet have the GOP votes needed, “we will by the time we vote.”

The revised draft was presented to Republican senators at a closed meeting Thursday morning. Among its many provisions, it would cap federal funding for the Medicaid program, covers more than 70 million low-income Americans, and give states authority to waive insurance regulations in the ACA.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been struggling for more than two weeks to satisfy holdouts from both wings of the party. Conservatives complain that the draft bill unveiled last month did not go far enough to repeal many of the ACA’s regulations, while moderates argue that structural changes and cuts to the Medicaid program for the poor are too deep.

So far, two of the 52 Republican senators have declared they will not even vote for the preliminary motion that would begin formal debate: conservative Rand Paul of Kentucky and moderate Susan Collins of Maine. “Still deep cuts to Medicaid,” Collins tweeted. “Will vote no on” motion to proceed to the bill.

Collins told reporters separately that she cannot support the bill, and criticized Senate leaders for the way they produced it. Such a fundamental change to Medicaid should have a full set of legislative hearings, she explained. Even fully repealing the ACA would not cap spending for Medicaid in the way the Senate bill is proposing. “Repealing Obamcare would not change the underlying Medicaid program,” she said.

The ACA expanded Medicaid, but the Senate changes would cut it back well beyond that expansion.

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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