McCain ab­sence gives GOP time on health bill

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Nation - By Niels Les­niewski

WASH­ING­TON — That Sen. John McCain’s ab­sence from the Capi­tol this week led Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell to de­lay con­sid­er­a­tion of a bill to roll back the 2010 health care law is a sign of just how nar­row the vote mar­gin might be.

And it could bring the fo­cus back to the cham­ber’s var­i­ous Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“As soon as we have a full con­tin­gent of sen­a­tors ... we will have that vote, it’s im­por­tant we do so,” Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Whip John Cornyn of Texas said Sun­day on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Cornyn also said that if the cur­rent draft of the health care mea­sure does not pass the Se­nate, “I as­sume we’ll keep try­ing.”

McCon­nell, a Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, an­nounced the sched­ule change Satur­day night, af­ter the an­nounce­ment that McCain would be stay­ing home in Ari­zona on the ad­vice of doc­tors fol­low­ing surgery to re­move a blood clot on Fri­day.

Whether or not the de­lay is good for McCon­nell’s ef­fort is any­body’s guess. It could give the leader more time to make ad­just­ments and win over ad­di­tional Repub­li­can votes— or it could pro­vide more time for a re­volt to de­velop.

That’s what Sen. Rand Paul thinks will hap­pen. The Ken­tucky Repub­li­can is al­ready op­posed to the leg­is­la­tion.

“I think the longer the bill’s out there, the more con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans are go­ing to dis­cover that it’s not re­peal, and the more that ev­ery­body’s go­ing to dis­cover that it keeps the fun­da­men­tal flaw of Oba­macare. It keeps the in­sur­ance man­dates that cause the prices to rise, which chase young, healthy peo­ple out of the mar­ket­place, and leads to what peo­ple call ad­verse se­lec­tion,” Paul told CBS’ “Face the Na­tion” on Sun­day.

Sen. Su­san Collins, a Maine Repub­li­can who had also al­ready an­nounced her op­po­si­tion to pro­ceed­ing with the health care bill, es­ti­mated Sun­day that there could be any­where from eight to 10 GOP sen­a­tors with “deep con­cerns” about the most re­cent draft.

Ap­pear­ing on ABC’s “This Week,” Collins was ac­tively lob­by­ing against the mea­sure.

“This bill would make sweep­ing and deep cuts in the Med­i­caid pro­gram, which has been a safety net pro­gram on the books for more than 50 years,” Collins said. “It would also jeop­ar­dize the very ex­is­tence of our ru­ral hos­pi­tals and our nurs­ing homes, which not only pro­vide ex­cep­tional care to peo­ple in ru­ral Amer­ica, but also are ma­jor em­ploy­ers in the small com­mu­ni­ties in which they are lo­cated.”

McCon­nell re­leased the health care mea­sure’s up­dated lan­guage Thurs­day. It had re­mained un­clear how sev­eral key mem­bers would vote on the pro­posal.

The mea­sure would make sig­nif­i­cant changes to Med­i­caid and up­end gov­ern­ment fund­ing that helps in­di­vid­u­als pur­chase health care cov­er­age on the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket.

Democrats have blasted the pro­posal for, among other things, es­ti­mates from the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice that up­ward of 22 mil­lion more in­di­vid­u­als could be without in­sur­ance over the next 10 years.

An up­dated CBO score could sur­face as early as Mon­day for the health care law re­place­ment draft, but that may not in­clude all of the pro­vi­sions of what’s tar­geted for in­clu­sion in the leg­is­la­tion.

Se­nate Bud­get Chair­man Michael B. Enzi of Wy­oming said be­fore the week­end news that he ex­pected to see a CBO score on the con­sumer free­dom lan­guage fa­vored by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz be­fore the Se­nate fin­ishes vot­ing on the health care rec­on­cil­i­a­tion bill— but maybe not on the front end.

McCain’s ab­sence will have the ef­fect of giv­ing the CBO more time to get through the work of scor­ing the leg­is­la­tion, even as Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill and in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion have been in­creas­ingly crit­i­cal of the bud­get score­keeper’s meth­ods.

Be­fore the sched­ule change, many sen­a­tors were go­ing to be spend­ing the week jump­ing back and forth be­tween health care and the in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tions. Some Democrats were con­cerned about not be­ing able to put enough fo­cus on op­po­si­tion to the re­peal and re­place­ment ef­fort.

The Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee has a hear­ing sched­uled for Wed­nes­day on over­sight of what ap­pears to be a lack of en­force­ment of the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act, which re­quires in­di­vid­u­als lob­by­ing on be­half of for­eign gov­ern­ments to file pa­per­work dis­clos­ing their busi­ness prac­tices.

Paul Manafort, a for­mer chair­man of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign, retroac­tively reg­is­tered un­der FARA for work for a pro-Krem­lin po­lit­i­cal party in Ukraine. Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Charles E. Grass­ley has said that at some point, he wants to hear di­rectly from Manafort.

MICHAEL BROCHSTEIN/SIPA USA

Sen. John McCain on July 11 at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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