GOP leaders delay health bill vote until after July 4 recess
(Bloomberg) — Senate leaders put off a vote on the Republicans’ healthcare bill until after the July 4 recess amid growing opposition from GOP members to the plan drafted in secret by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The decision Tuesday to delay the vote planned for this week follows announcements by at least five Republicans that they’ll vote to block Senate debate on the current version of the bill. McConnell needs support from at least 50 of the 52 Republicans to move forward with the measure.
“We’re going to continue the discussion within our conference on the differences we have," McConnell told reporters. "We’re still working on getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place."
He said Republican senators will go to the White House for a meeting with President Donald Trump on healthcare Tuesday afternoon.
"They’re very anxious to help," McConnell said.
The delay gives McConnell more time to negotiate with the holdouts, but it’s another significant roadblock Republicans have encountered in trying to deliver on their seven-year promise to repeal and potentially replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Repealing the law known as Obamacare was also a top campaign promise by Trump.
The House mustered barely enough votes to pass its proposal on May 4 after having to cancel earlier vote plans for lack of support. McConnell released a draft of his version on June 22.
Republican leaders wanted to formally introduce the plan as early as Tuesday, but defections started even before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said late Monday that the bill would leave an additional 22 million Americans without health insurance in a decade.
Senator Dean Heller of Nevada said Friday he was concerned about the bill’s deep cuts to Medicaid and to subsidies for individual insurance coverage. After the CBO report’s release, he was joined by Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Susan Collins of Maine and Mike Lee of Utah in saying they would refuse to bring the bill to the Senate floor.
Hours earlier Tuesday, second-ranking Republican John Cornyn insisted to reporters that "we’re gonna vote, we’re gonna pass it" this week.
But the serious negotiating has yet to begin. McConnell and Senate GOP leaders haven’t discussed possible changes with members concerned about some of the bill’s provisions, two senators said.
"I have not heard back from the leadership with any suggestions for changes," Collins said.
Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana also said he is waiting to hear from leaders about revisions before deciding how he’ll vote.
Democrats said they’re planning to keep up the fight against the Republican legislation.
“McConnell is going to relentlessly work all recess to cobble together 50 votes,” Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut wrote on Twitter. “We Will Work Harder.”
McConnell plans to seek changes to the bill and a new CBO analysis, a Republican aide said.
“We can’t do all that in 48 hours," said Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Part of Republicans’ argument for urgency in replacing Obamacare is their repeated assertion that the healthcare system is collapsing. While insurers including Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc. have pulled out of the individual market in some states, part of that decision stems from uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act as Republicans seek to dismantle that law.
The healthcare measure could dramatically affect many Americans’ health and financial security while also posing challenges to state governments facing proposed cuts in Medicaid coverage for low-income residents.
The Senate bill would reduce taxes on the wealthy, as well as on insurers, drug companies, device makers and tanning salons by $700 billion over a decade, paying for it with sharp cuts to Medicaid and with reductions to the subsidies that help middle-class people buy insurance on their own.
Medicaid spending would be cut by $772 billion over a decade, which would result in 15 million fewer people enrolled in the program in 2026 than under current law. Another 7 million wouldn’t have coverage in the individual insurance market.
The CBO estimated that the law would lower premiums in the long term, but raise out-of-pocket costs. In 2026, average premiums would be about 20 percent lower than they would be under Obamacare. That’s in part because coverage would be skimpier, and people would face higher deductibles and other cost-sharing.