U.S. gov­er­nors re­main skep­ti­cal of lat­est health care bill pitch

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - NATION - By Matt O’Brien

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is strug­gling to get sup­port from skep­ti­cal gov­er­nors for a re­vised health care bill be­fore the U.S. Se­nate.

U.S. Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price and Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tor Seema Verma made their pitch Satur­day morn­ing dur­ing a closed-door meet­ing of the bi­par­ti­san Na­tional Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence also met sev­eral of the gov­er­nors pri­vately af­ter his pub­lic ad­dress at the Rhode Is­land con­fer­ence on Fri­day.

Ne­vada Gov. Brian San­doval, one of the bill’s most prom­i­nent Repub­li­can skep­tics, said Satur­day it’s un­likely they changed any­one’s mind.

“I am strug­gling to val­i­date the num­bers that are be­ing pre­sented to me by the ad­min­is­tra­tion, ver­sus what I’m hear­ing from in­de­pen­dent (ex­perts), what I’ll likely hear from the (Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice), what I’m hear­ing from back home,” San­doval said af­ter the gov­er­nors-only meet­ing.

San­doval has ex­pressed con­cerns about the leg­is­la­tion’s cuts to the Med­i­caid pro­gram for the poor and dis­abled. His stand is im­por­tant be­cause of the pres­sure he could place on Ne­vada’s GOP Sen. Dean Heller, a pos­si­ble swing vote.

With two GOP sen­a­tors al­ready op­posed to the leg­is­la­tion, one more “no” vote would kill the bill out­right in a Se­nate di­vided 52-48 between Repub­li­cans and Democrats. San­doval said “Sen. Heller’s his own man,” but he’s try­ing to give him the best in­for­ma­tion about how the leg­is­la­tion would af­fect their state.

“He’s the United States sen­a­tor. At the end of the day, he’s the one who pushes the but­ton,” San­doval said.

Con­necti­cut Gov. Dan­nel Mal­loy, chair­man of the Demo­cratic Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion, said the mood at the Satur­day meet­ing was tense and “there are a lot of Repub­li­can gov­er­nors who ap­par­ently have a neck prob­lem, be­cause they were all look­ing down.”

Mal­loy added that a few GOP gov­er­nors did ask ques­tions. Others said they raised their con­cerns to the White House in one-on-one meet­ings.

Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can Gov. Scott Walker said he had an “ex­ten­sive meet­ing” Fri­day with Pence and Price and “we’re hope­ful they’re go­ing to get to a point where they’re go­ing to have a re­peal-and-re­place that works.” Walker de­clined to say if he sup­ports the cur­rent ver­sion.

Par­tic­i­pants said the meet­ing with gov­er­nors in­cluded an ap­peal from U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who is a for­mer gov­er­nor, ask­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to put the de­bate on hold and to look for a bi­par­ti­san so­lu­tion.

The con­fer­ence’s host, Rhode Is­land Demo­cratic Gov. Gina Rai­mondo, said she didn’t think any­one’s mind was changed.

“If the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is try­ing to save hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars, the money’s got to come from some­where,” she said.

Stephan Savoia / Associated Press

Ne­vada Repub­li­can Gov. Brian San­doval and Vir­ginia Demo­cratic Gov. Ter­ence McAuliffe ex­change ideas Satur­day at the Na­tional Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion’s meet­ing in Providence, R.I.

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