Lee, Mo­ran leave lead­ers short of votes needed for dis­man­tling of Oba­macare

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Thomas Ka­plan and Robert Pear

WASH­ING­TON – Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Mo­ran of Kansas de­clared Mon­day night that they would op­pose the Se­nate Repub­li­can bill to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, killing for now a 7-year-old prom­ise to over­turn Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture do­mes­tic achieve­ment.

The an­nounce­ment by the two Repub­li­can sen­a­tors left their lead­ers two votes short of the nec­es­sary tally to be­gin de­bate on their bill to dis­man­tle the 2010 health law. Two other Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Su­san M. Collins of Maine, had al­ready said they would not sup­port a pro­ce­dural step to be­gin de­bate.

“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. He added that the Se­nate re­peal bill “failed to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act or ad­dress health care’s ris­ing costs.”

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 jump­ing away from the leg­is­la­tion to­gether, Mo­ran and Lee en­sured that no one would be the de­fin­i­tive “no” vote.

With four solid votes against the bill, Repub­li­can lead­ers were faced with two op­tions: go back and try to re­write the bill in a way that could se­cure 50 Repub­li­can votes, a seem­ing im­pos­si­bil­ity at this point, or do as Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., had promised and team with Democrats to draft a nar­rower, bi­par­ti­san mea­sure to fix the flaws in the Af­ford­able Care Act that both par­ties ac­knowl­edge.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., re­sponded to the an­nounce­ment by urg­ing his GOP col­leagues to be­gin anew and, this time, un­der­take a bi­par­ti­san ef­fort.

“This sec­ond fail­ure of Trump­careis­proof­pos­i­tivethat 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 Demo-

crats on a bill that low­ers pre­mi­ums, pro­vides long-term sta­bil­ity to the mar­kets and im­proves our health care sys­tem.”

The op­po­si­tion from Paul and Collins was ex­pected, so McCon­nell had no mar­gin for er­ror as he un­veiled the lat­est ver­sion of his bill. He sur­vived un­til Mon­day night without los­ing an­other of his mem­bers – al­though some of them ex­pressed mis­giv­ings or, at the very least, un­cer­tainty.

McCon­nell had wanted to move ahead with a vote this week, but was forced to aban­don that plan af­ter Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., un­der­went surgery last week, and the time needed for his re­cov­ery re­mains un­cer­tain. That un­ex­pected set­back gave the forces that op­posed the bill more time to pres­sure un­de­cided sen­a­tors. On Fri­day, the health in­sur­ance lobby, which had been largely silent dur­ing the fight, came off the side­lines to blast a key part of the lat­est Se­nate bill, say­ing that it was un­work­able, would send pre­mi­ums soar­ing and would cost mil­lions of Amer­i­cans their in­sur­ance.

McCon­nell has failed twice in re­cent weeks to keep his cau­cus to­gether for a planned vote. He first wanted to hold a vote in late June, only to post­pone it af­ter run­ning into op­po­si­tion.

Lee, one of the most con­ser­va­tive mem­bers of the Se­nate, had cham­pi­oned a pro­posal that would al­low in­sur­ers to sell low­cost, stripped-down plans – an idea that ended up be­ing added to the lat­est ver­sion of McCon­nell’s bill. But the lan­guage added was not quite what Lee had been ad­vo­cat­ing, his of­fice said af­ter the bill was re­leased.

Mo­ran faced pres­sure at home about how the bill would af­fect Kansas, in­clud­ing its ru­ral hos­pi­tals. The Kansas Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion said last week that the lat­est ver­sion “comes up short, par­tic­u­larly for our most vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients.”

The news 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. Sen. Lindsey O. Gra­ham, R-S.C., called for a “new ap­proach,” while Rep. Mark R. Mead­ows, R-N.C., tweeted, “Time for full re­peal.”

Sen. Jerry Mo­ran, R-Kan., says GOP bill fails to re­peal Oba­macare, ad­dress costs.

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