Time to move on from health care: GOP leader

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: The re­sound­ing Se­nate crash of the sev­enyear Repub­li­can drive to scrap the Obama health care law has led to fin­ger-point­ing but also has left the party with wounded lead­ers and no ev­i­dent way ahead on an is­sue that won’t go away. In an as­ton­ish­ing cliff-hanger, the GOP-run Se­nate voted 51-49 on Fri­day to re­ject Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell’s last ditch at­tempt to sus­tain their drive to dis­man­tle Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care over­haul with a starkly trimmed-down bill.

The vote, which con­cluded shortly be­fore 2 am EDT, was a blis­ter­ing de­feat for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and McCon­nell, R-Ky. “They should have ap­proved health care last night,” Trump said Fri­day dur­ing a speech in Brent­wood, New York. “But you can’t have every­thing,” he added, seem­ingly shrug­ging off one of his big­gest leg­isla­tive set­backs. Trump re­it­er­ated his threat to “let Oba­macare im­plode,” an out­come he could has­ten by steps such as halt­ing fed­eral pay­ments to help in­sur­ers re­duce out-of-pocket costs for lower-earn­ing con­sumers.

Se­nate Democrats were joined in op­po­si­tion by three Repub­li­cans - Maine’s Su­san Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Ari­zona’s John McCain. The 80-year-old McCain, just di­ag­nosed with brain can­cer, had re­turned to the Capi­tol three days ear­lier to pro­vide a vote that tem­po­rar­ily kept the mea­sure alive, only to de­liver the coup de grace Fri­day.

“Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate will NEVER win if they don’t go to a 51 vote ma­jor­ity NOW. They look like fools and are just wast­ing time,” Trump tweeted yes­ter­day. He said the “Repub­li­can Se­nate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party.” But on the cru­cial vote, a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of 51 votes, in­clud­ing a tie-breaker by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, was all that was needed. “Hello, he only needed 51 in the health care bill and couldn’t do it,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, help­fully re­minded re­porters.

Ear­lier in the week, Repub­li­can de­fec­tions sank GOP ef­forts to scrap the 2010 law. One would have erased Obama’s statute and re­placed it with a more con­stricted govern­ment health care role, and the other would have an­nulled the law and given Congress two years to re­place it. The mea­sure that fell Fri­day was nar­rower and in­cluded a re­peal of Obama’s un­pop­u­lar tax penal­ties on peo­ple who don’t buy poli­cies and on em­ploy­ers who don’t of­fer cov­er­age to work­ers. McCon­nell de­signed it as a leg­isla­tive ve­hi­cle the Se­nate could ap­prove and be­gin talks with the House on a com­pro­mise, fi­nal bill.

But the week’s set­backs high­lighted how, de­spite years of try­ing, GOP lead­ers haven’t re­solved in­ter­nal bat­tles be­tween con­ser­va­tives seek­ing to erase Obama’s law and mod­er­ates leery of toss­ing mil­lions of vot­ers off of cov­er­age. “It’s time to move on,” McCon­nell said af­ter the de­feat. Fri­day morn­ing, House lead­ers turned to singer Gor­don Light­foot to point fin­gers. They opened a House GOP meet­ing by play­ing “The Wreck of the Ed­mund Fitzger­ald,” a bal­lad about the 1975 sink­ing of a freighter in Lake Su­pe­rior. Law­mak­ers said lead­ers as­sured them it was meant as a ref­er­ence to the Se­nate’s flop.

The House ap­proved its health care mea­sure in May, af­ter its own tribu­la­tions. In a state­ment, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., point­edly said “the House de­liv­ered a bill.” He added, “I en­cour­age the Se­nate to con­tinue work­ing to­ward a real so­lu­tion that keeps our prom­ise.” Con­ser­va­tive Rep Mo Brooks, R-Ala, run­ning for a Se­nate seat, faulted McCon­nell for not craft­ing a plan that could pass. He said if McCon­nell aban­dons the health care drive, “he should re­sign from lead­er­ship.”

One mod­er­ate Repub­li­can said Trump shared re­spon­si­bil­ity. “One of the fail­ures was the pres­i­dent never laid out a plan or his core prin­ci­ples and never sold them to the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” said Rep Char­lie Dent, R-Pa. “Out­sourced the whole is­sue to Congress.” In state­ments Fri­day, McCain said the Se­nate bill didn’t lower costs or im­prove care and called the cham­ber’s in­abil­ity to craft wide-rang­ing leg­is­la­tion “in­ex­cus­able.” He said Democrats and Repub­li­cans should write a bill to­gether and “stop the po­lit­i­cal games­man­ship.”

Law­mak­ers spoke of two pos­si­ble but dif­fi­cult routes for­ward. In one, balk­ing GOP sen­a­tors could be won over by new pro­pos­als from lead­ers or cave un­der pres­sure from an­gry con­stituents de­mand­ing they ful­fill the party’s pledge to tear down Obama’s law. But both of those dy­nam­ics have been in play all year with­out pro­duc­ing re­sults. — AP

— AP

WASH­ING­TON: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, ac­com­pa­nied by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price, and oth­ers, speaks about health­care, July 24, 2017, in the Blue Room of the White House.

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