Let coverage market fail, Trump says
WASHINGTON — With their bill to repeal and replace the health care law in tatters, Senate leaders on Tuesday pushed to vote on a different measure that would repeal key parts of President Barack Obama’s health law without providing a replacement.
But Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, all Republicans, immediately declared that they could not vote to repeal the health care law without a replacement.
Their three votes are enough to doom the repeal measure given the GOP’s slim 52- 48 majority the Senate.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, signaled that he, too, would oppose a repeal-only bill.
“I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said in a statement. “I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.”
Collins said in her statement that she had urged Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to hold hearings in an attempt to fashion a legislative remedy for the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while leaving it in place in the meantime.
The collapse of the Senate Republican health bill arrives after years under Obama during which
Republican senators freely assailed the health law, but now, they have not been able to come up with a workable plan to unwind it that would keep both moderate Republicans and conservatives on board.
By midday Tuesday, the Republican Party’s 7-year-old promise to repeal the health care law appeared broken.
Speaking to reporters in the Roosevelt Room on Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he was “disappointed” in the demise of the Senate bill and viewed the cratering of the nation’s individual insurance market as the best way to advance his goals.
“It will be a lot easier,” Trump said, adding, “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”
On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats alike were trying to make sense of the bill’s downfall — and what comes next.
Two Republican senators, Collins and Rand Paul of Kentucky, affirmed their opposition to the measure last week, leaving McConnell with no room for error as he tried to move toward a vote.
On Monday night, two more Republican senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas, came out in opposition to the bill, leaving Republican leaders at least two votes short of those needed to start debate on the measure.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, offered a blunt assessment of why Senate Republicans fell short on their bill.
“We are so evenly divided, and we’ve got to have every Republican to make things work — and we didn’t have every Republican,” he said.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said early Tuesday that he regretted the setbacks dealt to the bill, then pitched the repeal-only plan.
“I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failures of Obamacare will not be successful,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. “That doesn’t mean we should give up. We will now try a different way to bring the American people relief from Obamacare. I think we owe them at least that much.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell laid out plans for a vote on a measure like the one vetoed by Obama in January 2016, which, McConnell said, would include a “repeal of Obamacare combined with a stable, two-year transition period.”
Many Republicans have said they support the repeal-only approach, and they questioned how senators who voted for the legislation two years ago could oppose it now.
“We’re going to find out if there’s hypocrisy in the United States Senate in the next few days, I’m afraid,” said Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia.
Under a repeal-only bill, the Congressional Budget Office said, 18 million more people would be uninsured within a year, and 32 million fewer people would have coverage in 2026, compared with current law. Premiums, it said, would increase at least 20 percent in the first year and would double by 2026.
That bill would have eliminated the health care law’s expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for the purchase of private insurance. But it would have left in place rules established by the health care law that require insurers to provide specific benefits and prohibit insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums because of a person’s pre-existing medical conditions.
Still, the numbers deterred Murkowski — and others.
“There’s enough chaos and uncertainty already, and this would just contribute to it,” she said.
The CBO report also spooked a bipartisan group of 11 governors, led by John Kasich of Ohio, a Republican, and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, a Democrat, and including Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, a key opponent of the repeal effort.
“The Senate should immediately reject efforts to repeal the current system and replace sometime later,” wrote the group, which consists of five Republicans, five Democrats and one independent. “This could leave millions of Americans without coverage. The best next step is for both parties to come together and do what we can all agree on: fix our unstable insurance markets.”
The statement was endorsed by the governors of Alaska, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia.
The 11 governors, as well as a handful of senators, also called on congressional leaders to launch a bipartisan process to revamp the nation’s health care system.
The governors said in their statement that they “stand ready to work with lawmakers in an open, bipartisan way to provide better insurance for all Americans.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Tuesday that lawmakers need to get a more detailed analysis of what has caused consumers’ premiums to rise and what could make insurance more affordable.
“We didn’t have the courage to lay out exactly what caused premiums to increase,” Johnson said, noting that senators didn’t even have an up-to-date budget analysis of the latest health care proposal. “It’s an insane process. If you don’t have information, how can you even have a legitimate discussion and debate?”
As Republicans tried to regroup, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., renewed his calls for the majority to work with Democrats to shore up the health insurance system.
“It should be crystal clear to everyone on the other side of the aisle that the core of the bill is unworkable. It’s time to move on. It’s time to start over,” he said. “Rather than repeating this same, failed partisan process again, Republicans should work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the insurance markets and improves our health- care system.
“Now that their one-party effort has largely failed, we hope they will change their tune,” he said, observing that some Republicans had called for bipartisan talks.
Schumer quoted Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said Monday night that “Congress must return to regular order” and rewrite the health care legislation with input from both parties.
“The door to bipartisanship is open now. Republicans only need to walk through it,” Schumer said.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday at the White House that he was “disappointed” that the Senate health care bill had failed, but contended “the Democrats are going to come to us” because the current law will falter.