GOP Se­nate jet­ti­sons ef­fort on health bill

Will in­stead seek to re­peal, re­place later, McCon­nell says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Sean Sul­li­van, Lenny Bern­stein, Evan Wy­loge, Kelsey Snell and Abby Phillip of The Wash­ing­ton Post; by Thomas Ka­plan and Robert Pear of The New York Times; by Carla K. John­son, An­drew Tay­lor, Erica Werner,

WASH­ING­TON — Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell aban­doned ef­forts to pass a re­place­ment of the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act, say­ing late Mon­day that he will in­stead seek a vote on a sim­ple re­peal — de­layed by two years to give law­mak­ers time to seek a re­place­ment.

The Repub­li­can leader made the an­nounce­ment in a state­ment that came a few hours af­ter two Repub­li­can sen­a­tors dealt a blow to the re­place­ment bill un­veiled Thurs­day. Sens. Jerry Mo­ran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah joined two other sen­a­tors in op­pos­ing the leg­is­la­tion, mean­ing McCon­nell lacked the votes to move ahead.

The Ken­tucky Repub­li­can said, “re­gret­fully, it is now ap­par­ent that the ef­fort to re­peal and im­me­di­ately re­place the fail­ure of Oba­macare will not be suc­cess­ful.”

McCon­nell said that in the com­ing days, the Se­nate will con­sider the Housep­a­ssed bill, with the first or­der of busi­ness a re­peal of Oba­macare with a two-year de­lay.

Mo­ran and Lee had is­sued sep­a­rate state­ments Mon­day say­ing they can’t sup­port the leg­is­la­tion in its cur­rent form. They join Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, Su­san Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, in op­po­si­tion.

“There are se­ri­ous prob­lems with Oba­macare, and my goal re­mains what it has been for a long time: to re­peal and re­place it,” Mo­ran said in a state­ment. “This closed-door process

un­for­tu­nately has yielded” the Se­nate re­peal bill, which he as­serted “failed to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act or ad­dress health care’s ris­ing costs.”

Mo­ran said, “We should not put our stamp of ap­proval on bad pol­icy.”

In his own state­ment, Lee said of the bill, “In ad­di­tion to not re­peal­ing all of the Oba­macare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in low­er­ing pre­mi­ums for mid­dle-class fam­i­lies; nor does it cre­ate enough free space from the most costly Oba­macare reg­u­la­tions.”

By de­fect­ing to­gether, Mo­ran and Lee en­sured that no one se­na­tor would be the de­fin­i­tive “no” vote.

Mo­ran and Lee’s op­po­si­tion threw the ef­fort to pass health care leg­is­la­tion into tur­moil, with ad­di­tional Repub­li­cans weigh­ing in on Twit­ter about a flawed process that must take a new di­rec­tion. Pres­i­dent Trump tweeted that “Repub­li­cans should just RE­PEAL fail­ing Oba­maCare now & work on a new Health­care Plan.”

Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham, R-S.C., called for a “new ap­proach” while Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., tweeted, “Time for full re­peal.” White House aides, mean­while, said they still planned to press ahead.

An­other Repub­li­can se­na­tor had also sig­naled Mon­day that he might not sup­port the bill.

Sen. Ron John­son said he spoke with col­leagues and con­firmed that McCon­nell has said fu­ture Med­i­caid cuts planned by the health care mea­sure will “never hap­pen.”

John­son told re­porters that such com­ments are “trou­bling” and “a real breach of trust.”

He said he’s no longer urg­ing col­leagues to vote to be­gin de­bate on the mea­sure.

The Se­nate Demo­cratic leader, Charles Schumer of New York, re­sponded to the an­nounce­ments by urg­ing his Repub­li­can col­leagues to be­gin anew and, this time, to un­der­take a bi­par­ti­san ef­fort.

“This sec­ond fail­ure of Trump­care is proof pos­i­tive that the core of this bill is un­work­able,” Schumer said. “Rather than re­peat­ing the same failed, par­ti­san process yet again, Repub­li­cans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that low­ers pre­mi­ums, pro­vides long-term sta­bil­ity to the mar­kets and im­proves our health care sys­tem.”

McCon­nell has now fallen short twice in re­cent weeks in ef­forts to roll out a re­peal bill and keep his con­fer­ence to­gether for it. He first wanted to hold a vote in late June, only to re­verse course af­ter run­ning into op­po­si­tion.

House Repub­li­cans in com­pet­i­tive districts who sup­ported their ver­sion of the bill will now have to ex­plain them­selves — and Democrats are ea­ger to pounce.

“Make no mis­take, Paul Ryan can’t turn back time and undo the dam­ag­ing vote he im­posed on his con­fer­ence,” said Mered­ith Kelly, a spokesman for the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. “House Repub­li­cans all own a bill that would strip health care from 23 mil­lion Amer­i­cans and raise costs for mil­lions more, and it will haunt them in 2018.”

AGENDA IN FLUX

The Repub­li­can agenda was al­ready in a state of flux af­ter GOP lead­ers scrapped their plans to vote on the health care over­haul this week be­cause Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had to have surgery to re­move a blood clot above his left eye that in­volved open­ing his skull.

Democrats had been pres­sur­ing Repub­li­cans to use the de­lay in the Se­nate to hold pub­lic hear­ings on the GOP health care bill. All 48 mem­bers of the Demo­cratic cau­cus op­pose the leg­is­la­tion.

“This will al­low mem­bers to hear un­fil­tered and un­bi­ased anal­y­sis of how the bill will af­fect their states and the health and fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity of the con­stituents they rep­re­sent, in­clud­ing the im­pact of Med­i­caid cuts to vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions like chil­dren, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, and peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions,” Schumer and two other lead­ing Demo­cratic sen­a­tors wrote ear­lier Mon­day in a let­ter to McCon­nell and a pair of GOP com­mit­tee chair­men.

The let­ter also asked that GOP lead­ers not move ahead with the bill un­til the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice re­leases a “com­plete score” on it. The of­fice had been ex­pected to re­lease its find­ings as soon as Mon­day, but a GOP aide said that would not hap­pen. The aide, granted anonymity to speak can­didly, said a re­lease later this week was pos­si­ble but not cer­tain.

The of­fice has been pro­ject­ing what the bill would do to in­sur­ance cov­er­age lev­els, pre­mium costs and the fed­eral bud­get deficit. Hav­ing an un­fa­vor­able re­port in pub­lic for an ex­tended pe­riod of time with an un­cer­tain date for a vote would fuel crit­ics’ ar­gu­ments against the bill, likely mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for McCon­nell to round up votes for it.

A re­port on an ear­lier ver­sion of the leg­is­la­tion pro­jected that it would re­sult in 22 mil­lion fewer Amer­i­cans with in­sur­ance by 2026 com­pared with the cur­rent law. It pre­dicted that mea­sure would re­duce the bud­get deficit by $321 bil­lion over the same pe­riod. On av­er­age, pre­mi­ums would rise, then fall un­der the mea­sure, the bud­get of­fice pro­jected.

Nei­ther a McCon­nell spokesman nor the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice im­me­di­ately re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment on when the re­port was ex­pected and why it would not be re­leased Mon­day.

White House of­fi­cials have been seek­ing to cast doubt on the find­ings from the bud­get of­fice and other in­de­pen­dent anal­y­ses of the bill. But some key Repub­li­cans re­sponded to their pitch with skep­ti­cism.

Sev­eral key GOP sen­a­tors have voiced con­cerns about the mea­sure’s long-term fed­eral spend­ing cuts to Med­i­caid. Oth­ers have wor­ried the bill does not go far enough in over­haul­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act.

At the same time, early in­di­ca­tions are that young adults, con­sid­ered key to the suc­cess of any health plan, are prov­ing to be a tough sell if the manda­tory in­sur­ance cov­er­age por­tion of the 2010 health law is dropped.

In­sur­ers need young and healthy en­rollees to buy in­sur­ance be­cause they keep pre­mi­ums down for every­one. The cur­rent law at­tempts to do that by man­dat­ing that every­one get cov­er­age. The Repub­li­can plan re­places that man­date with penal­ties for those who let cov­er­age lapse, and aims to en­tice young adults by al­low­ing in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to sell bare-bones cov­er­age that could be cheaper.

But cheap isn’t free, which turns off peo­ple like Ju­lian Senn-Rae­mont, a 24-year-old mu­si­cian.

Other young adults worry that open­ing the door to these bare-bones plans will make the more com­pre­hen­sive cov­er­age they have now too ex­pen­sive or even un­avail­able.

In Hous­ton, 29-year-old Jim­mieka Mills pays $15 a month for a govern­ment-sub­si­dized health plan. She said she fears that Congress will weaken the health law’s guar­an­tees of free preven­tive care, so she made an ap­point­ment to get a birth con­trol im­plant that will last for years.

AP/AN­DREW HARNIK

Capi­tol Hill po­lice of­fi­cers ar­rest a group protest­ing the Repub­li­can health care bill out­side the of­fices of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., in Wash­ing­ton on Mon­day.

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