Fa­tal blow dealt to bill

McCon­nell will re­treat, try to pass re­peal with a two-year de­lay

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Alan Fram and Erica Werner

WASH­ING­TON» The lat­est GOP ef­fort to re­peal and re­place the Af­ford­able Care Act was wounded fa­tally in the Se­nate on Mon­day night when two more Repub­li­can sen­a­tors an­nounced their op­po­si­tion to the leg­is­la­tion strongly backed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The an­nounce­ments from Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Mo­ran of Kansas left the Repub­li­can Party’s long-promised ef­forts to get rid of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care leg­is­la­tion reel­ing. Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell an­nounced that he will re­treat, and try to pass the more straight­for­ward Oba­macare re­peal bill that Repub­li­cans ap­proved while Obama was still in of­fice and cer­tain to veto it. That looks un­likely to suc­ceed now that it could ac­tu­ally be­come law and un­leash wide-rang­ing ef­fects likely to frighten off sen­a­tors.

“Re­gret­fully, it is now ap­par­ent

that the ef­fort to re­peal and im­me­di­ately re­place the fail­ure of Oba­macare will not be suc­cess­ful,” McCon­nell said in a state­ment that sounded like a death knell to the GOP’s prom­ises to re­peal Oba­macare and re­place it with some­thing bet­ter.

Trump, who had pre­dicted suc­cess for McCon­nell’s re­peal-and-re­place leg­is­la­tion just hours ear­lier, urged over Twit­ter: “Repub­li­cans should just RE­PEAL fail­ing Oba­maCare now & work on a new Health­care Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!” But Repub­li­can lead­ers re­jected that clean-re­peal ap­proach months ago be­cause it could not pass Congress.

Lee and Mo­ran said they could not sup­port McCon­nell’s leg­is­la­tion in the form un­veiled last week. They joined GOP Sens. Su­san Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, both of whom an­nounced their op­po­si­tion right af­ter McCon­nell re­leased the bill Thurs­day.

McCon­nell’s bill “fails to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act or ad­dress health care’s ris­ing costs,” Mo­ran said.

Lee said, “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.”

That left McCon­nell at least two votes short in the closely di­vided Se­nate from be­ing able to move for­ward with his bill. In­stead he said he would try to open de­bate on a re­peal-and-re­place bill passed by the House, and the first al­lowed amend­ment would be on the leg­is­la­tion ap­proved by Congress in 2015 re­peal­ing much of Oba­macare, with a two-year de­lay for the re­peal to take ef­fect.

Obama was in the White House when that bill passed, and he ve­toed it. Few Repub­li­cans reck­oned then with the re­al­ity of send­ing the bill to a pres­i­dent of their party who might ac­tu­ally sign it and in­vite all the con­se­quences, in­clud­ing cast­ing tens of mil­lions off the roles of the in­sured and off of Med­i­caid. This year’s de­bate has shown Repub­li­cans are highly wary of any such move, and a sim­i­lar straight­for­ward re­peal was re­jected early on.

Mon­day night’s re­treat was the sec­ond straight fail­ure for McCon­nell, who had to can­cel a vote on an ear­lier ver­sion of his re­peal-an­dreplace bill last month when de­feat be­came in­evitable.

Trump had kept his dis­tance from the Se­nate process, but Mon­day night’s de­vel­op­ment was a ma­jor blow for him, too, as the pres­i­dent failed to rally sup­port for what has been the GOP’s trade­mark is­sue for seven years, ever since Obama and the Democrats passed the Af­ford­able Care Act.

The Se­nate bill, like an ear­lier ver­sion that barely passed the House, elim­i­nated man­dates and taxes un­der Oba­macare, and un­rav­eled an ex­pan­sion of the Med­i­caid health care pro­gram for the poor and dis­abled. For con­ser­va­tives like Lee and Paul, it didn’t go far enough in de­liv­er­ing on Repub­li­can Party prom­ises to undo Obama’s law. But mod­er­ates like Collins viewed the bill as too ex­treme in yank­ing in­sur­ance cov­er­age from mil­lions.

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