GOP dealt a stiff blow as Se­nate re­jects Oba­macare re­peal

Waikato Times Weekend - - WORLD -

UNITED STATES: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has threat­ened to let Oba­macare ’’im­plode’’ af­ter the Repub­li­can re­peal bill’s stun­ning de­feat in the US Capi­tol.

Deal­ing a se­ri­ous blow to Trump’s agenda, the Se­nate yes­ter­day re­jected the mea­sure to re­peal parts of for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health­care law, af­ter a night of high sus­pense.

A key vote to de­feat the mea­sure was cast by Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor John Mc­Cain, who re­turned to the Se­nate this week af­ter re­ceiv­ing a di­ag­no­sis of brain can­cer.

He and two other Repub­li­cans joined with all Democrats to re­ject the amend­ment, which would have re­pealed a man­date that most in­di­vid­u­als get health in­sur­ance and sus­pended a re­quire­ment that large com­pa­nies pro­vide cov­er­age to their em­ploy­ees. It would have also de­layed a tax on med­i­cal de­vices and de­nied fund­ing to Planned Par­ent­hood for a year.

The fi­nal vote was 49-51. Repub­li­cans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Su­san Collins of Maine joined Mc­Cain in vot­ing no.

The amend­ment was a last re­sort for Se­nate Repub­li­cans to pass some­thing – any­thing – to trig­ger ne­go­ti­a­tions with the House.

Tak­ing to Twit­ter just min­utes af­ter the vote, Trump said: ‘‘3 Repub­li­cans and 48 Democrats let the Amer­i­can peo­ple down. As I said from the be­gin­ning, let Oba­maCare im­plode, then deal. Watch!’’

‘‘This is clearly a dis­ap­point­ing mo­ment,’’ said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell. He put the health­care bill on hold.

Buoyed by a sig­nal from House Speaker Paul Ryan, Mc­Connell had in­tro­duced a pared-down health­care bill that he hoped would keep alive Repub­li­can am­bi­tions to re­peal ‘‘Oba­macare’’.

‘‘It’s time to turn the page,’’ said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer of New York. ‘‘We are not cel­e­brat­ing. We are re­lieved.’’

Mc­Connell had called his mea­sure the Health Care Free­dom Act. It was not in­tended to be­come law, but to open a path for a HouseSe­nate con­fer­ence com­mit­tee to try to work out com­pre­hen­sive leg­is­la­tion that Congress could pass and send to Trump.

The mea­sure would have re­pealed the un­pop­u­lar Af­ford­able Care Act re­quir­ing most peo­ple to have health in­sur­ance or risk a fine from the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice. A sim­i­lar re­quire­ment on larger em­ploy­ers would be sus­pended for eight years.

Ad­di­tion­ally, it would have de­nied fund­ing to Planned Par­ent­hood for a year, and sus­pended for three years a tax on med­i­cal de­vice man­u­fac­tur­ers.

States could seek waivers from con­sumer pro­tec­tions in the Obama-era law, and in­di­vid­u­als could in­crease the amount they con­trib­ute to tax-shel­tered health sav­ings ac­counts for med­i­cal ex­penses.

Ryan seem­ingly opened a path for Mc­Connell ear­lier by sig­nalling a will­ing­ness to ne­go­ti­ate a more com­pre­hen­sive bill with the Se­nate.

Some Repub­li­can sen­a­tors had been con­cerned the House would sim­ply pass the ‘‘skinny bill’’ and send it to Trump. That would have sent a shock­wave through health in­sur­ance mar­kets, spik­ing pre­mi­ums.

Ryan sent sen­a­tors a state­ment say­ing that if ‘‘mov­ing for­ward’’ re­quired talks with the Se­nate, the House would be ‘‘will­ing’’ to do so. But shortly af­ter­wards, his words re­ceived varied re­sponses from three GOP sen­a­tors who had in­sisted on a clear com­mit­ment from Ryan.

‘‘Not suf­fi­cient,’’ said Mc­Cain, who re­turned to the Capi­tol on Wed­nes­day to pro­vide a piv­otal vote that al­lowed the Se­nate to be­gin de­bat­ing the health­care bill, a paramount pri­or­ity for Trump and the GOP.

In­sur­ance com­pany lobby group Amer­ica’s Health In­sur­ance Plans wrote to Se­nate lead­ers say­ing that end­ing Obama’s re­quire­ment that peo­ple buy in­sur­ance with­out strength­en­ing in­sur­ance mar­kets would pro­duce ‘‘higher pre­mi­ums, fewer choices for con­sumers and fewer peo­ple cov­ered next year’’. – Reuters, AP

PHOTO: REUTERS

Sen­a­tor John Mc­Cain was in­flu­en­tial in the vote that re­jected re­peal­ing parts of Oba­macare. The 80-year-old is bat­tling brain can­cer.

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