GOP strug­gles for health­care votes

Marlborough Express - - WORLD -

UNITED STATES: The top US Se­nate Repub­li­can strug­gled yes­ter­day to sal­vage ma­jor health­care leg­is­la­tion sought by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, meet­ing pri­vately with a pa­rade of skep­ti­cal sen­a­tors as crit­ics within the party urged sub­stan­tial changes.

Repub­li­can lead­ers hope to agree on changes to the leg­is­la­tion by Fri­day, lo­cal time, so law­mak­ers can take it up af­ter next week’s In­de­pen­dence Day re­cess. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell on Tues­day aban­doned plans to seek pas­sage of it this week be­cause Repub­li­cans did not have 50 votes to pass the bill.

For seven years, Repub­li­cans have led a quest to undo the 2010 law known as Oba­macare, Demo­cratic former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment. Trump made dis­man­tling it a top cam­paign prom­ise dur­ing last year’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign but pol­icy dif­fer­ences within the party have raised doubts Repub­li­cans can achieve a re­peal.

Democrats have uni­fied against the bill and Repub­li­cans con­trol the Se­nate by a slim 52-48 mar­gin, which means McCon­nell can af­ford to lose only two Repub­li­cans. So far at least 10 - in­clud­ing mod­er­ates and hard-line con­ser­va­tives - have ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to the cur­rent bill, although some in­di­cated they would vote for it with cer­tain changes.

McCon­nell, with his rep­u­ta­tion as a strate­gist on the line, met with a pro­ces­sion of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors in his of­fice yes­ter­day. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Se­nate Repub­li­can, said party lead­ers will talk to ev­ery Repub­li­can se­na­tor who has con­cerns about the bill or is un­de­cided.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed its health­care bill last month, only af­ter strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween the cen­tre of the party and the right wing. Now McCon­nell must find a sim­i­lar sweet spot.

Trump said the bill was mov­ing along well and pre­dicted a ‘‘great, great sur­prise’’ but did not elab­o­rate.

Maine Se­na­tor Su­san Collins, a mod­er­ate, said it would be ‘‘very dif­fi­cult’’ to reach agree­ment by Fri­day. Collins and other cen­trists were put off by the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice’s pro­jec­tion on Mon­day that 22 mil­lion peo­ple would lose med­i­cal in­sur­ance un­der the ex­ist­ing bill.

Fin­ish­ing the leg­is­la­tion’s re­vi­sions by Fri­day would be ‘‘op­ti­mal,’’ Cornyn said, so the CBO can an­a­lyse the new ver­sion. .

Even then, Democrats could mount a force­ful re­sis­tance. They have re­peat­edly said they will not dis­cuss a re­peal but have ex­pressed open­ness to ne­go­ti­at­ing im­prove­ments. - Reuters

PHOTO: REUTERS

A woman im­per­son­at­ing Ivanka Trump stands next to a pup­pet of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing a protest out­side Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel.

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