Not “consistent with Republican principles”
Some GOP opponents of Senate health care bill see vote delay as an advantage
WASHINGTON» Republican critics of the Senate’s latest version of health care legislation were energized after leaders postponed votes on the measure, yet another sign the bill’s fortunes are in limbo.
A vocal conservative opponent of the measure, Sen. Rand Paul, predicted the delay would strengthen critics’ position by giving them more time to mobilize against the bill.
“The longer the bill is out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover it is not repeal,” Paul, R-Ky., said Sunday.
Paul said he spoke with President Donald Trump on Friday and suggested the president support repealing the Affordable Care Act and deciding the details of a replacement plan later if the latest version of the bill does not pass.
Trump did not comment on health care during the weekend, even as his party faced new challenges in trying to advance its latest bill. Trump
made no reference to health care Sunday in an angry morning tweetstorm about Hillary Clinton, the Russia controversy and other topics.
The lack of response from Trump came after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announced Saturday he is recovering from a surgery and would be absent from votes, depriving Republicans of the support they need to advance the legislation. The development temporarily dashed McConnell’s hopes of wrapping up the health-care debate by passing a reworked version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act this week.
The White House also was largely silent about health care over the weekend. “We wish Sen. McCain a speedy recovery,” Helen Ferre, White House director of media affairs, told reporters Sunday when asked about the Senate delay.
The bill experienced a separate blow Friday and Saturday at a conference of governors in Providence, R.I., where, despite an energetic lobbying campaign, Trump administration officials failed to gain support from influential Republicans such as Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Opposition from Sandoval and others will make it easier for undecided Republican senators from those states to vote “no” on the bill, potentially further endangering its prospects.
The difficult political calculus facing Republicans was clear in a new poll released Sunday showing the public prefers the Affordable Care Act to the Republican health-care plan by a roughly 2-1 ratio. Among Republicans, 59 percent preferred the GOP plan, compared with 11 percent who preferred the current law.
The bill’s dramatic cuts to the Medicaid program are a significant concern for governors such as Sandoval as well as moderates such as Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials sought to allay these fears Friday and Saturday by arguing that the health-care bill shores up Medicaid’s finances to preserve the program for the future. They also downplayed the possible effects of the cuts.
Pence’s speech was criticized by Democrats, health care advocates and even some Republicans for mischaracterizing the possible ramifications of the bill.