Trump as­sails Alaskan sen­a­tor who op­posed health care bill

‘[She] let the Repub­li­cans, and our coun­try, down yes­ter­day. Too bad!’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ac­cused Alaska Sen Lisa Murkowski, a fel­low Repub­li­can, of dis­ap­point­ing the coun­try by op­pos­ing the GOP ef­fort to de­mol­ish the Obama health care law, af­ter ini­tial votes demon­strated the party will be hard pressed to make any sweep­ing changes in the statute.

Sen­a­tors planned to vote yes­ter­day on a Repub­li­can amend­ment to re­peal much of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s law and give Congress two years to come up with a re­place­ment. But that was ex­pected to be re­jected by a com­bi­na­tion of solidly op­posed Democrats and Repub­li­cans un­will­ing to tear down the law with­out a re­place­ment in hand. “Now we have to keep work­ing hard,” Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, RKy, said yes­ter­day. “We’re deter­mined to do ev­ery­thing we can to suc­ceed. We know our con­stituents are count­ing on us.”

In an ini­tial GOP set­back, the Se­nate voted 57-43 Tues­day to block a wide-rang­ing amend­ment by Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky to re­place Obama’s statute with a more re­stric­tive. Those vot­ing no in­cluded nine Repub­li­cans, rang­ing from con­ser­va­tive Mike Lee of Utah to Alaska mod­er­ate Murkowski, in a roll call that raised ques­tions about what if any re­shap­ing of Obama’s law splin­tered Repub­li­cans can muster votes to achieve. Trump took to Twit­ter early yes­ter­day to sin­gle out Murkowski. “Sen­a­tor @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska re­ally let the Repub­li­cans, and our coun­try, down yes­ter­day. Too bad!” he wrote.

Tax, in­sur­ance cuts

Murkowski, a sen­a­tor since 2002, was re­elected last fall and has crit­i­cized the GOP’s pro­posed cuts in the Med­i­caid health in­sur­ance pro­gram for the poor, the dis­abled and nurs­ing home pa­tients. Dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign last Oc­to­ber, she said she would not sup­port Trump af­ter tapes were re­leased of him mak­ing crude com­ments about women in 2005.

Tues­day’s re­jected GOP amend­ment was cen­tered on lan­guage by McCon­nell eras­ing Obama’s tax penal­ties on peo­ple who don’t buy in­sur­ance, cut­ting Med­i­caid and trim­ming sub­si­dies for con­sumers. It in­cluded a pro­vi­sion by Ted Cruz, R-Texas, let­ting in­sur­ers sell cut-rate poli­cies with skimpy cov­er­age plus an ad­di­tional $100 bil­lion - sought by Mid­west­ern mod­er­ates in­clud­ing Rob Port­man, R-Ohio - to help states ease out-of-pocket costs for peo­ple los­ing Med­i­caid. GOP de­fec­tors also in­cluded Sens. Dean Heller of Ne­vada, who faces a tough re-elec­tion fight next year, and usu­ally steady McCon­nell al­lies Bob Corker of Ten­nessee, Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina and Jerry Mo­ran of Kansas.

Be­fore that de­feat, Trump and McCon­nell had gained a re­prieve from what seemed a likely de­feat and won a 51-50 vote to be­gin de­bat­ing the GOP health care mea­sure, which sits atop the party’s leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties. In a day of thrilling po­lit­i­cal theater, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence broke a tie roll call af­ter Sen John McCain re­turned to the Capi­tol from his strug­gle against brain can­cer to help push the bill over the top. There were de­fec­tions from just two of the 52 GOP sen­a­tors - Murkowski and Maine’s Su­san Collins - the pre­cise num­ber McCon­nell could af­ford to lose and still carry the day.

All Democrats voted against even start­ing de­bate on leg­is­la­tion to dis­man­tle the 2010 statute that stands as Pres­i­dent Obama’s land­mark do­mes­tic achieve­ment. Lead­ers were openly dis­cussing a “skinny bill” re­peal­ing un­pop­u­lar parts of the statute like its tax penal­ties on peo­ple not buy­ing cov­er­age - a tac­tic aimed chiefly at let­ting Se­nate-House bar­gain­ers seek a fi­nal com­pro­mise later. McCon­nell’s Demo­cratic coun­ter­part, Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, saw the GOP’s path as bleak.

“It seems the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity is no clearer on what the end game is, be­cause there’s no good way out of this,” he said. Sen­a­tors were work­ing their way through 20 hours of de­bate. At week’s end, a “votea-rama” of rapid-fire vot­ing on a moun­tain of amend­ments was ex­pected be­fore mov­ing to fi­nal pas­sage - of some­thing.

In­ter­nal GOP dif­fer­ences re­main over how broadly to re­peal the law, how to re­im­burse states that would suf­fer from the bill’s Med­i­caid cuts and whether to let in­sur­ers sell cut-rate, bare-bones cov­er­age that falls short of the re­quire­ments. While pres­sure and deal-mak­ing helped win over vac­il­lat­ing Repub­li­cans to be­gin de­bate, they re­mained frag­mented over what to do next. Sev­eral point­edly left open the pos­si­bil­ity of op­pos­ing the fi­nal bill if it didn’t suit their states.

Even McCain, R-Ariz., who re­ceived a warm stand­ing ova­tion and bi­par­ti­san hugs when he re­turned, said he’d op­pose the fi­nal bill if it didn’t re­flect changes to help his state and lam­basted the roughshod process his own party was us­ing. He ac­cused party lead­ers of con­coct­ing a plan be­hind closed doors and “spring­ing it on skep­ti­cal mem­bers, try­ing to con­vince them it’s bet­ter than noth­ing, ask­ing us to swal­low our doubts and force it past a uni­fied op­po­si­tion. I don’t think that is go­ing to work in the end. And it prob­a­bly shouldn’t.” — AP

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks dur­ing a “Make Amer­ica Great Again” rally at the Covelli Cen­tre. — AFP

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