Koch broth­ers’ group as­sails Se­nate GOP health­care bill

Po­lit­i­cal net­work’s chief says the plan to gut Med­i­caid is only ‘a slight nip and tuck.’

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION -

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Chief lieu­tenants in the Koch broth­ers’ po­lit­i­cal net­work lashed out at the Se­nate Repub­li­can health­care bill on Satur­day, be­com­ing a pow­er­ful out­side critic as party lead­ers try to rally sup­port for their plan among rank-and-file Repub­li­cans.

“This Se­nate bill needs to get bet­ter,” said Tim Phillips, who leads Amer­i­cans tor Pros­per­ity, the Koch net­work’s po­lit­i­cal arm. “It has to get bet­ter.”

Phillips called the Se­nate’s plans to slash Med­i­caid spend­ing “a slight nip and tuck” over Pres­i­dent Obama’s health­care law, a mod­est change he de­scribed as “im­moral.”

The com­ments came on the first day of a three-day pri­vate donor re­treat at a lux­ury re­sort in the Rocky Moun­tains. In­vi­ta­tions were ex­tended only to donors who promised to give at least $100,000 each year to the var­i­ous groups backed by the Koch broth­ers’ Free­dom Part­ners — a net­work of ed­u­ca­tion, pol­icy and po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties that aim to pro­mote small gov­ern­ment.

No out­side group has been more ag­gres­sive in the years-long push to re­peal Oba­macare than the Kochs, who vowed on Satur­day to spend an­other 10 years fight­ing to change the health­care sys­tem if nec­es­sary. The Koch net­work has of­ten dis­played a will­ing­ness to take on Repub­li­cans — in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Trump — when their poli­cies aren’t deemed con­ser­va­tive enough.

Net­work spokesman James Davis said the or­ga­ni­za­tion would con­tinue to push for changes to the Se­nate health­care bill over the com­ing week. “At the end of the day, this bill is not go­ing to fix health­care,” Davis de­clared.

The net­work’s wishes are backed by a mas­sive po­lit­i­cal bud­get that will be used to take on Repub­li­can law­mak­ers if nec­es­sary, Phillips said.

He de­scribed the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s bud­get for pol­icy and pol­i­tics head­ing into the 2018 midterm elec­tions as be­tween $300 mil­lion and $400 mil­lion.

“We be­lieve we’re headed to the high end of that range,” he said.

On Fri­day, Ne­vada Repub­li­can Dean Heller be­came the fifth GOP se­na­tor to de­clare his op­po­si­tion to the Se­nate health­care pro­posal. Echo­ing the other four, Heller said he op­poses the mea­sure “in this form” but does not rule out back­ing a ver­sion that is changed to his lik­ing.

How­ever, while the other four op­pose the bill be­cause it does not go far enough in un­do­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act, Heller ob­jects be­cause he says it would cause mil­lions of peo­ple to lose their health in­sur­ance and would do noth­ing to lower pre­mi­ums.

The Se­nate mea­sure re­sem­bles leg­is­la­tion the House ap­proved last month that the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice said would re­sult in 23 mil­lion ad­di­tional unin­sured peo­ple within a decade and that re­cent polling shows is viewed fa­vor­ably by only about 1 in 6 Amer­i­cans.

An­drew Harnik As­so­ci­ated Press

TIM PHILLIPS, left, head of Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity, threat­ens to tar­get GOP law­mak­ers po­lit­i­cally.

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