Bud­get of­fice puts off scor­ing of health bill

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WASHINGTON — Adding to un­cer­tainty over the fate of the Se­nate health care bill, the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice in­di­cated Sunday that it no longer ex­pects to re­lease its anal­y­sis to­day on the es­ti­mated cost and scope of in­sur­ance cov­er­age un­der the lat­est GOP bill.

The Se­nate Bud­get Com­mit­tee an­nounced Sunday that the re­lease had been post­poned. The com­mit­tee did not give an ex­pla­na­tion or say when the anal­y­sis was ex­pected, adding that it would pro­vide fur­ther in­for­ma­tion and up­dates as ap­pro­pri­ate.

The an­nounce­ment came hours af­ter Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell late Satur­day put off plans to hold a vote on the bill this week LR, af­ter Repub­li­can Sen. John McCain said he would be at home in Ari­zona re­cov­er­ing from a surgery to re­move a blood clot from above his left eye. McCain’s ab­sence will leave Repub­li­cans with­out the votes nec­es­sary to ad­vance the leg­is­la­tion.

The No. 2 Se­nate GOP leader, John Cornyn of Texas, said he still ex­pected the Se­nate to move quickly, hold­ing a vote as soon as McCain re­turns. But amid grow­ing public un­ease over the bill, some Repub­li­cans sug­gested the de­lay will make McCon­nell’s task of win­ning enough sup­port even harder.

Con­ser­va­tive crit­ics will now have more time to mo­bi­lize, said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., one of the mea­sure’s most out­spo­ken op­po­nents.

“The longer the bill is out

there, the more con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans are go­ing to dis­cover it is not re­peal,” Paul said Sunday in an in­ter­view with CBS.

“I think it’s ab­so­lutely wrong,” Paul said of the bill. “It’s not at all con­sis­tent with Repub­li­can prin­ci­ples. … We promised re­peal.”

Paul and Sen. Su­san Collins, R-Maine, for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, have said they will not vote even to pro­ceed to the leg­is­la­tion on the Se­nate floor. Along with all 48 se­na­tors in the Demo­cratic Cau­cus — and with­out McCain — their op­po­si­tion would be enough to block the bill from ad­vanc­ing.

Trump did not men­tion the health care bill or McCain’s surgery in a se­ries of tweets Sunday morn­ing in which he men­tioned Hil­lary Clin­ton and the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions now en­gulf­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion, among other top­ics.

The White House said Sunday that Trump was “mon­i­tor­ing what’s go­ing on with health care” but did not oth­er­wise weigh in on the grow­ing un­cer­tainty. “We wish Sen. McCain a speedy re­cov­ery,” said He­len Aguirre Ferre, di­rec­tor of me­dia af­fairs.

Vice President Mike Pence has sought to rally sup­port for the health bill and re­cently called on gov­er­nors to em­brace the new bill in a speech at the sum­mer meet­ing of the Na­tional Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion.

Collins said she dis­agreed with Pence’s com­ment to gov­er­nors that the bill “strength­ens and se­cures Med­i­caid for the need­i­est in our so­ci­ety.”

“You can’t take more than $700 bil­lion out of the Med­i­caid pro­gram and not think that it’s go­ing to have some kind of ef­fect,” Collins said in an in­ter­view Sunday with CNN.

“This bill im­poses fun­da­men­tal, sweep­ing changes in the Med­i­caid pro­gram, and those in­clude very deep cuts that would af­fect some of the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in our so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing dis­abled chil­dren and poor se­niors. It would af­fect our ru­ral hos­pi­tals and our nurs­ing homes, and they would have a very hard time even stay­ing in ex­is­tence.”

Paul crit­i­cized the Repub­li­can bill for keep­ing the same “fun­da­men­tal flaw” that he said has caused pre­mi­ums to surge un­der the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act.

“They are sub­si­diz­ing the death spi­ral of Oba­macare,” Paul said. “They don’t fix it — they just sub­si­dize it with tax­payer mon­eys.”

Both se­na­tors raised doubts about wider Repub­li­can sup­port for the bill.

“There are about 8 to 10 Repub­li­can se­na­tors who have se­ri­ous con­cerns about this bill, so at the end of the day, I don’t know whether it will pass,” Collins said.

Asked if McCon­nell has the votes for pas­sage, Paul was blunt.

“I don’t think right now he does,” he said in an in­ter­view with Fox News.

McCon­nell last week had re­fash­ioned the leg­is­la­tion to at­tract ad­di­tional GOP votes. The new pack­age added lan­guage let­ting in­sur­ers sell dis­count-priced poli­cies with min­i­mal cov­er­age aimed at win­ning over con­ser­va­tives, and re­vised fund­ing for­mu­las that would mean fed­eral money for states in­clud­ing Louisiana and Alaska — home to four GOP se­na­tors who are un­com­mit­ted on the mea­sure.

But the health care leg­is­la­tion was al­ready hang­ing by a thread. McCain’s ab­sence meant it would be­come im­pos­si­ble for the ma­jor­ity leader to round up the votes needed this week to pro­ceed on the bill.

It was the sec­ond time that McCon­nell was forced to call off a planned vote, even with heavy lob­by­ing by Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials. A vote was post­poned last month, also due to lim­ited sup­port. Democrats are unan­i­mously op­posed to the bill, as are the na­tion’s ma­jor med­i­cal groups and in­sur­ers.

“While John is re­cov­er­ing, the Se­nate will con­tinue our work on leg­isla­tive items and nom­i­na­tions, and will de­fer con­sid­er­a­tion of the Bet­ter Care Act,” McCon­nell said Satur­day. He has al­ready said

the Se­nate will work through the first two weeks of the Au­gust re­cess, cit­ing a need to fin­ish a slate of un­fin­ished busi­ness.

McCon­nell did not in­di­cate when he would aim to re­turn to the health care bill, but Cornyn made clear Sunday that mov­ing quickly is im­por­tant.

“I be­lieve as soon as we have a full con­tin­gent of se­na­tors, that we’ll have that vote,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Cornyn ac­knowl­edged that if the Se­nate is un­able to at­tract enough GOP votes that it will “keep try­ing” but will even­tu­ally have to come up with a dif­fer­ent plan.

The Se­nate bill, like leg­is­la­tion the House passed ear­lier, re­peals man­dates re­quir­ing in­di­vid­u­als to carry in­sur­ance and busi­nesses to of­fer it, and it un­rav­els an ex­pan­sion of the Med­i­caid pro­gram en­acted un­der President Barack Obama’s law. A CBO report on the ear­lier ver­sion of the Se­nate bill found it would re­sult in more than 20 mil­lion ad­di­tional unin­sured Amer­i­cans over a decade, com­pared with cur­rent law.

The new­est ver­sion at­tempts to at­tract con­ser­va­tive sup­port by al­low­ing in­sur­ers to of­fer skimpy cov­er­age plans along­side more ro­bust ones, but also reaches out to mod­er­ates by adding bil­lions of dol­lars in help for the opi­oid cri­sis and to de­fray high costs for con­sumers.

In Phoenix, Mayo Clinic Hospi­tal doc­tors said McCain un­der­went a “min­i­mally in­va­sive” pro­ce­dure to re­move the nearly 2-inch clot and that the surgery went “very well,” a hospi­tal state­ment said. McCain was re­ported to be rest­ing com­fort­ably at his home.

Pathol­ogy re­ports on the clot were ex­pected in the next sev­eral days.

McCain, 80, is a three­time sur­vivor of melanoma. Records of his med­i­cal ex­ams re­leased in 2008 when he was the GOP can­di­date for president showed that he has had re­moved pre­can­cer­ous skin le­sions, as well as an early stage squa­mous cell car­ci­noma, an eas­ily cured skin can­cer.

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